Salmon farmers in Scotland are calling for action to ease the burden of export paperwork following the UK’s exit from the European Union.
Tavish Scott, Chief Executive of Salmon Scotland, the body representing Scotland’s farmed salmon sector, has written to UK Fisheries Minister Victoria Prentis, arguing that the promised move to a digital system for export health certificates (EHCs) is taking too long to implement.
Since Brexit took effect, Scott said, Salmon Scotland’s member companies have faced an extra £3m in costs each year thanks to export bureaucracy.
The UK Government has pledged to replace the paper-based system of EHCs with a more efficient digital system, but despite the success of a trial version – operated in collaboration with Cooke Aquaculture – no deadline has been set for the roll-out.
Scott wrote: “I would reiterate how important it is to get the new system up and running as soon as possible.
“Salmon producing companies are already having to cope with steeply rising production costs (most notably in feed and fuel), and now face increased paperwork costs because of the EHC changes which were introduced in January (2021).
“We really believe that the time taken to process EHCs will reduce considerably when the system is moved online, that the number of errors will be massively reduced and the whole system will need fewer staff and less time to process – cutting down the costs and delays which are plaguing the system at the moment.”
Salmon Scotland has suggested that if the French border control posts at Boulogne-sur-Mer and Calais – the crucial entry points for Scottish seafood to the European markets – are happy with the digital system, it could be rolled out for those ports ahead of clearing the way for its adoption throughout the EU.
Scott has also called for the UK Government to help cover the extra costs being imposed on businesses as a direct result of the current export system.
Andrew Watson, a spokesman for Cooke Aquaculture Scotland said: “We fully support the digitisation of export health certificates (EHCs) and would welcome UK, French and European support to roll this out as quickly as possible.
“Cooke has been piloting DEFRA’s digital EHCs on behalf of the sector and so far the process has been working really well – reducing time, cost and scope for error.
“The Scottish salmon sector has put in the hard yards to prepare for, and cope with, the changes brought about by brexit. Cooke and other companies have invested time, money and effort into getting things right every time. But more than a year after these changes came into force, paperwork errors by other seafood producers are pushing up the cost of EHCs for all of us.
“Victor Hugo said ‘there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come’. A fully digital process for EHCs in a format that Europe wants would benefit both sides of the channel.”