‘It’s a perfect storm for Scottish seafood exporters. Weakened by Covid-19, and the closure of the French border before Christmas, the end of the Brexit transition period has unleashed layer upon layer of administrative problems, resulting in queues, border refusals and utter confusion,‘ said Donna Fordyce, Chief Executive of Seafood Scotland.
‘The last 48 hours has really delivered what was expected – new bureaucratic non-tariff barriers, and no one body with the tools to be able to fix the situation.’
She commented that IT problems in France resulted in consignments diverted from Boulogne-sur-Mer to Dunkirk, which was not supposed to be at the export front line, and therefore unprepared, while on the UK side there have been HMRC IT issues relating to certification that need to resolved as rapidly as possible.‘
A lack of knowledge and understanding of the required paperwork means some companies are ill-prepared for the new checks, which are taking far longer because of the mistakes being uncovered. When the systems settle down, checks should be carried out on samples from each load but now entire consignments are having to be checked to satisfy requirements,’ she said.
‘These businesses are not transporting toilet rolls or widgets. They are exporting the highest quality, perishable seafood which has a finite window to get to markets in peak condition. If the window closes these consignments go to landfill.’
Donna Fordyce said that the knock-on effect of export grinding to a halt is that the fishing fleet will have little reason to go out.
‘In a very short time we could see the destruction of a centuries old market which contributes significantly to the Scottish economy,’ she said.
‘The problem is no longer hypothetical. It is happening right now. We are working with industry, Government, and other bodies to try to mop up the mess to allow trade to flow again. We are doing all we can to help companies get the paperwork done. It will take time to fix – which we know many seafood companies can’t afford right now.’