The Scottish seafood sector is reeling from the effects of Brexit with computer failures and confusion over paperwork rendering some companies’ efforts to export their produce all but impossible.
The price of many species has dropped by half with some up to 80% lower and around a third of the Scottish fleet is currently out of action. Many boats still operating are redirecting catch to Denmark where it can more easily progress through European markets, bypassing the Scottish processing sector entirely.
Donna Fordyce of Seafood Scotland said that the sector is at rock-bottom. “Trying to navigate the system we have at the moment is like pushing water uphill, and it is not improving,” she said.
One company, used to exporting £1m worth of product to the EU every week, saw its output drop to £12,000 last week and another, which exported 100 tonnes of seafood in the first two weeks of January 2020, has only managed 8.5 tonnes so far this year.
“Getting anything out of the UK into the EU is being achieved by luck rather than design. In the meantime, businesses that have been operating for generations, the people that work for them, and their families and communities are bearing the brunt of the issues,” said Ms Fordyce.
What needs to happen
Industry bosses are calling for a six-month grace period to allow companies to put in place new administrative processes and familiarise themselves with the new regulations. Clarification as to how to complete paperwork is also needed as commodity codes are missing from systems, documents are being automatically printed without mandatory page numbering and lorries are even being turned back because the ink is the wrong colour.
“With some breathing space, the system can be fixed and rebooted, and companies will then be able to keep moving,” said Ms Fordyce.