Seafood exporting businesses across the UK affected by the challenges of adjusting to new requirements for exporting to the EU can now apply for financial support as the the UK Government opens its Seafood Disruption Support Scheme.
The UK-wide scheme will provide up to £23 million of financial assistance to businesses that suffered a financial loss because of delays related to the export of fresh or live fish and shellfish to the EU during January 2021. The fund will be paid retrospectively to cover losses incurred between 1-31st January 2021.
“Seafood exporting businesses across the UK can apply from today for support from this £23 million scheme, reflecting the unique challenges faced by the sector,” said Fisheries Minister Victoria Prentis.
“We will continue to work closely with the fisheries and seafood industry through our Seafood Exports Working Group to troubleshoot any issues that cause delays to the export of these highly perishable goods.”
Administered by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) on behalf of Defra, the fund offers financial assistance based on a proportion of losses that can be verified up to a maximum of £100,000 per business.
Commenting on the Seafood Disruption Support Scheme, Seafood Scotland Chief Executive Donna Fordyce said that since 1st January, seafood exports have slowed to a trickle as companies struggle to navigate systems she described as “not fit for purpose, being tested in real time, and creating an intractable barrier to trade.”
“Some companies have even given up trying and have put their businesses on ice for the time being, at great financial suffering to their owners, staff, families, and communities,” she said.
“We hoped the £23m would go some way to alleviating the pressure, while the existing problems could be resolved. However, the initial industry feedback today is one of disappointment, with many companies instantly realising they will be ineligible for support.
Donna Fordyce said that this includes companies that have simply had to stop trying because their product has not been getting through. Also, seafood businesses whose long-standing orders from customers in the EU have dried up because of the export crisis.
“Companies cannot produce health certificates and other documentation for orders never made because of a lack of customer confidence that product would reach the EU on time, and in peak condition,” Donna Fordyce said.
“It’s probable that these companies will never be fully compensated for what they have lost and are still losing, but the damage could still be limited if the systems were workable and export gets back on track quickly.”