UK seafood industry bodies have welcomed confirmation of a £23m government fund to compensate exporters in the sector who have faced losses as a result of post-Brexit regulations, but are stressing that fixing the problems themselves must be the priority in the short term. They have also reiterated their call for a “grace period” in which the new regulations could be suspended.
More details of the compensation scheme were announced last night by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). They will be targeted at fishing export businesses “who can evidence a genuine loss in exporting fish and shellfish to the EU.”
The scheme appears to exclude larger producers and processors, and it is also unclear whether hauliers will be compensated for losses.
Support will be available immediately, the Government says, and paid retrospectively to cover losses incurred since 1 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. More details will be available on eligibility criteria in the coming days, DEFRA added. The Government has promised to consult industry across the UK and to work with the devolved administrations on the eligibility criteria before they are confirmed.
UK Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “This £23m 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.
“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.”
Tavish Scott, Chief Executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation, welcomed the details of the compensation scheme announced by the UK Government this evening but stressed that the priority was getting salmon to customers in the EU quickly and efficiently.
He said: “Compensation may help a limited number of seafood businesses and that would be welcome. The salmon farming sector is worth £300m every year in exports to Europe. Our sector simply wants the ability to successfully sell fish into this European marketplace. That objective has been riven by difficulties since 1 January. Sorting out these endless problems for exporting salmon companies should be the top priority of government.”
And Donna Fordyce, Chief Executive of Seafood Scotland said: “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. 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.”
She stressed: “Money will offer a much needed sticking plaster covering the losses over the last few weeks, but to completely staunch the wound, the sector still needs a period of grace during which the systems must be overhauled so they are fit for purpose. It is also essential that groupage returns to a fully operational state as a matter of urgency. 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.”

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