Oban is a busy Argyll town for fishing and for shellfish exports. Picture by Bill Heaney
By Rory Murphy
Additional advisers will be appointed to help provide seafood businesses with support on new paperwork and processes following the end of the EU Exit Transition Period.
Two new Full Time Equivalent (FTE) roles will be created at trade and marketing body Seafood Scotland to help companies better understand the new business practices to export to the EU and Northern Ireland, including the customs and export certification processes.
This new support will be funded through the Scottish Government and Scotland Food and Drink’s joint Recovery Plan.
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing, left, said: “The seafood sector has been devastated by this poor Brexit deal and we cannot wait for the UK Government to solve the administrative problems they have created.
“Our focus is on resolving the issues around exports and making sure the process runs as smoothly as possible which is why as an immediate priority, we are funding these new posts to provide in-depth expert support to exporters across Scotland and help them navigate the new and onerous processes.
“We continue to back calls from our food and drink businesses for a six-month ‘grace period’ to allow exporters more time to digest the outcome of negotiations on a trade deal and prepare as best as they can.”
Donna Fordyce, Chief Executive at Seafood Scotland, said: “This milestone investment comes at a crucial time for the Scottish seafood industry. With its resilience already weakened by a year of COVID-19 restrictions, followed by the French border closure over Christmas, the Brexit issues couldn’t have come at a worse time.
“By appointing our own elite team of exporting experts, we will be able to provide companies of all sizes throughout the country with one to one support, to help guide them through the raft of administrative changes Brexit has brought as we strive to return to a position where product is flowing freely to our valued European customers.
“There’s a lot of work to do but this is a really positive step forward in resolving the issues still lingering post-Brexit and we look forward to the new team being put into position imminently.”
On Monday, the LibDems’ Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, condemned reports that live shellfish exports to the EU would continue to be banned “indefinitely”, despite assertions by the Fisheries Minister and other government officials that the ban would last only until 21st April. Mr Carmichael has written to the Fisheries Minister requesting an urgent plan of action to negotiate an end to the ban, which risks severely harming scallop producers in both Orkney and Shetland.
Mr Carmichael said: “An indefinite ban on live shellfish exports would be catastrophic for isles scallop catches – I am calling for urgent answers and action from the Fisheries Minister. The seafood industry needs a memorandum of understanding with the EU so that our businesses can have some measure of stability and confidence in their trading.
“You cannot tell people there is no problem when reality is staring you in the face. DEFRA ministers must have known for some time that the shellfish export ban would continue and yet they left it to the European Commission to tell the industry – there is no excuse for giving false hope to exporters. How can businesses have confidence in government advice when they get more accurate answers from elsewhere?”
He added: “This is yet another example of what fishermen and exporters have been saying for weeks – these are not “teething problems”, they are long-term structural issues. The Government must recognise that fact and take more serious action.”
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