The UK’s seafood businesses have had enough. On Monday freight lorries blocked the central London route for ministerial cars to the Palace of Westminster in an orderly demonstration. No wonder. The livelihoods of businesses and people are in jeopardy.
The UK’s seafood businesses have had enough. On Monday freight lorries blocked the central London route for ministerial cars to the Palace of Westminster in an orderly demonstration. No wonder. The livelihoods of businesses and people are in jeopardy. They work across Scotland and other UK coastal communities. Devon and Cornwall’s seafood businesses face the same enormous challenge of exporting into Europe as those from north of the border. Scottish seafood has further to travel down the M6 but the increased Brexit paperwork is the same whether you are in Peterhead or Penzance.
The aftermath of Brexit is now a reality for Scotland’s salmon farming companies. Market price is down. Costs and bureaucracy are up. Lorries of salmon have been delayed or stopped from even reaching the Channel since the new regulations kicked in on New Year’s Day.
The transfer to the UK’s export status as a third country and not an EU single market member was never going to be without pain. But the reality is now biting. We need the government to deliver lighter-touch trading rules for export businesses.
One experienced salmon farmer tells of growing up in the Western Isles in the late 1970s and early 1980s and the warning handed down by teachers to children who failed to pay attention in class.
“Study hard and get good grades,” the teacher would say, “Otherwise you’ll end up working at the salmon farm.”
Now the opposite is true. Teachers are much more likely to tell their pupils: “Study hard and get good grades or you’ll miss the chance to work at the salmon farm.”
It is easy to see why.
Baseball legend Yogi Berra may not have been talking about Brexit, but he certainly could have been.
First there was March last year, then there was October last year. On each occasion we were told to prepare for a No Deal Brexit only to be led back from the cliff at the last moment.
This time, however, it’s for real. The transition phase easing the UK’s departure from the EU will finish at the end of this year. There will be no retreat.
Talk to anyone who has ever been a fisheries minister and then watch them shudder when you mention quota negotiations.
These are the annual bouts of inter-EU brinkmanship which usually take place just before Christmas in an attempt to give the participants a meaningful deadline to work to.
Often, the winners are those who hold out longest while their competitors are either struggling to stay awake or frantically working out how they can still get home for the holidays.
Walk into the control room of the feed barge on a Scottish salmon farm today and what will greet you is more space race than farming.
There will be an array of screens, some showing ever-changing figures and charts but many with live video footage from inside the pens.
There will be electronic microscopes to monitor plankton levels, digital thermometers for the water temperature and gauges showing the feed levels in the stores.
JUST consider these figures for a second: 911, 1,081 and 1,282.
If plotted on a graph, they would show a steep but steady rise of 40 per cent from the first figure to the last.
But what do they mean?
They represent the average amount of salmon exported to Europe through the Channel each week – in thousands of kilos - between October and Christmas.
Snail caviar: of all the strange and wonderful products on show at the Boston seafood expo, snail caviar has to be the most bizarre.
The stall promoting this extraordinary product was staffed by a woman from Maine with no backboards or fancy stand, just a few tins of this very expensive product and some leaflets. She was looking for distributors: I hope she found some. Anybody who takes the trouble to extract eggs one by one with a pair of tweezers deserves a break sometime.