Statement: Thursday 7 January
Following further discussions on the ongoing disruption to EU-bound consignments of Scottish seafood, James Withers, Chief Executive of Scotland Food & Drink, said:
“It has been a very challenging 72 hours with industry and the authorities adjusting new, complex trading rules without having had any time to properly test them. We have warned for months about the lack of preparation time for everyone involved and these problems sadly come as little surprise.
“There are now a lot of bureaucratic steps to navigate in getting product from Scotland into France and small delays at different points can quickly cause major problems for a set of products whose value relies on getting to European markets within 24 hours.
“We have been working very closely with Food Standards Scotland, Scottish Government and partners across industry to work through delays at Larkhall. The prioritisation of simpler loads of single types of seafood, such as salmon, will be a big step forward. That will allow the focus to switch to more complex loads such as those that contain different products and batches from different businesses.
“There is no doubt that some seafood companies are struggling with the new paperwork requirements, as we knew would be the case. This is slowing the checks that have to be undertaken by law before lorries can be despatched from Larkhall to the English ports. There is a big exercise happening over the next couple of days with exporters to work through the common issues arising with incomplete or wrong paperwork.
“There have also been significant IT problems on the French side of the Channel. This has led to lorries being diverted to different border inspection points and then being held up. The French authorities assure us these systems are now fixed but this will need closely monitored over the coming days.
“There is a major collective effort to work through all this between industry and government. That is critical because the knock-on effect of disruption is significant and can grind the seafood supply chain – from fishing boats to haulage – to a halt very quickly. On the back of a horrendous 2020 and a nightmare before Christmas due to the French border closure, the financial impact of that would be grave for many.”