A £23 million fund is being made available by the UK government as support for seafood businesses hit by by the Covid pandemic and the challenge of coping with a new working environment in exporting to the European Union.
Since the 1st of January, exporters have struggled to adjust to a tidal wave of bureaucracy and chaos at UK borders as shipments have been delayed. The has been no shortage of horror stories over the last couple of weeks as exporters of live shellfish in particular have been seriously affected by the new regime’s requirements, resulting in a convoy of shellfish trucks earlier this week congregating in protest in central London.
“After almost three weeks of voicing their concerns and frustrations, we welcome the fact that the Scottish seafood sector has been heard and action is being taken,” commented Donna Fordyce of Seafood Scotland.
“While we await the full detail of the package, we know that there will be questions around the extent to which it supports the entire supply chain, from fleet to export. As we currently understand it, the deal offers crucial short-term assistance and includes much to be welcomed, particularly the £23m of new funding. It is also reassuring to see that the processing sector is set to be included in future support packages. This will offer a ray of light to some small and medium sized companies that have experienced crippling losses over the past few weeks. However, larger companies and smaller shellfish boats are still vulnerable, and will be hoping that they can access support too.”
“This £23 million scheme will provide crucial support for fishermen and seafood exporters, who have experienced delays and a lack of demand for fish from the restaurant industry in the UK and Europe,” said environment secretary George Eustice.
“We are continuing to work closely with the fishing and aquaculture sectors to make sure that they are supported, and can continue to fish whilst contributing to the economies of our coastal communities.”
According to DEFRA, the fund will be targeted at fishing export businesses able to provide evidence of genuine loss in exporting fish and shellfish to the EU. Support will be available immediately and paid retrospectively to cover losses incurred since 1st January 2021. The scheme will be targeted at small and medium enterprises and the maximum claim available to individual operators will be £100,000. The Marine Management Organisation will administer the scheme on behalf of exporters across the UK.
Seafood Scotland’s Donna Fordyce commented that while this offers a much-needed sticking plaster covering the losses over the last few weeks, the sector still needs a period of grace to bring systems up to speed.
“It is also essential that groupage returns to a fully operational state as a matter of urgency,” she said.
“Tonight’s announcement is certainly a step in the right direction and we will continue to work with industry, partners and Government to ensure the sector gets the proactive support it so desperately needs.”