Delays at UK Channel ports following Brexit must be resolved urgently, the Scottish salmon industry has warned.
Tavish Scott, chief executive of industry body Salmon Scotland, met UK Fisheries Minister Victoria Prentis in Shetland yesterday to highlight the disruption and importance of salmon exports to island and rural communities.
Fresh salmon from Scotland will normally arrive in France the next morning, but in recent weeks there have been delays of up to 48 hours due to queues on the UK side of the Channel – and problems are feared repeated.
Carriers and holidaymakers have faced long delays at French border posts set up at UK ports, particularly Dover. Following the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union, British travelers must have their passport checked and stamped before entering France.
The UK government has blamed France for understaffing its border posts, while others have argued the delays were an inevitable consequence of Brexit.
The vast majority of fresh salmon exports from the UK go to or via France, and delays of up to 48 hours can either significantly reduce the value of a shipment or render it unsaleable.
Salmon Scotland has called on the UK government to introduce immediate contingency plans to ensure perishables have priority status when delays occur at peak times such as summer holidays.
But, the organization said, there must also be a permanent, longer-term post-Brexit solution after schools return, with extra capacity in place to avoid delays for all transport and built-in flexibility to adapt to changes in demand.
Salmon Scotland also pointed out that, unlike the French side of the crossing, the Eurotunnel terminal in Folkestone does not have a “buffer zone” to park non-essential traffic so that priority shipments can pass.
Scottish salmon competes in the European market with Norway, which does not experience the same export disruption.
Tavish Scott said: “This meeting has been a welcome opportunity to set out the challenges currently facing salmon exporters and the risk to the Scottish and UK economies unless urgent action is taken.
“As the UK’s biggest food export, it is vital for jobs in Scotland and for the UK economy that we avoid any hold-ups in the English Channel.
“Fresh Scottish salmon is perishable and needs to arrive with customers as quickly as possible.
“We have urged the UK government to prioritize the movement of perishables. Following today’s constructive meeting, we hope for prompt action.