Scotland’s salmon farmers have today called for time-critical perishable seafood products to be given priority access to the re-opened Channel crossings.
The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO), the trade body for the UK’s salmon producers, welcomed the French decision to re-open routes into France for freight.
Salmon is the UK’s biggest food export and the week leading up to Christmas is the busiest time of the year for cross-Channel salmon deliveries.
But the SSPO also appealed to the UK and French governments to prioritise the movement of perishable goods, particularly fish and seafood from Scotland, which has a limited shelf life.
The UK Government has already drawn up plans to prioritise seafood if cross-Channel routes become delayed following the end-of-transition Brexit changeover on January 1 2021.
The SSPO has now called on the UK Government to bring those plans forward and implement them now, to help seafood deliveries get to France before they lose their value.
Tavish Scott, Chief Executive of the SSPO, said: “The UK Government has, rightly, got a clear plan to prioritise perishable seafood products for the Channel crossing in the event of queues forming after Brexit comes into force at the end of this year.
“We need to have those plans put into operation now. Our producers have lost millions of pounds since the border was closed on Sunday night.
“They need urgent action to be taken now to prevent this crisis turning into a disaster. Drivers of seafood consignments, particularly those that have travelled the length of the UK to get to the Channel, need to be given priority early access, both to the Covid tests and to the Channel crossings.”
This week’s closure of the Channel to all accompanied traffic has caused severe problems for Scotland’s salmon producers, stranding trucks full of fish in Kent and preventing others from even setting off from Scotland.
Some lorries have had to turn back while some companies have had to cancel harvest plans, leaving European customers without fish they were expecting.
Last night’s (Tues) decision by the French authorities will now mean that accompanied freight deliveries can now resume but the huge backlog on the UK side of the Channel means it will be some considerable time before operations return to normal.
Christmas is a vital time for salmon exports to the EU but the period leading up to New Year is almost as important.
Therefore it is vital operations return to normal as soon as possible, Mr Scott said today (Wed).
He also said it was time the UK Government started to consider the issue of compensation and the losses salmon farmers have had to endure because of this closure in the busiest week of the year.
Mr Scott said: “Our members have lost market share and money for reasons entirely outside their control and this has come on top of the most difficult trading year our sector has ever experienced.
“A conservative estimate puts the losses for our members at several million pounds, just from these last two days of deadlock. We expect the UK Government to consider seriously the issue of compensation."