Food industry finding post-Brexit exports ‘very challenging’

Scotland Food and Drink says there have been ‘major problems’ for perishable goods en route to France.

Food industry finding post-Brexit exports ‘very challenging’ Getty Images

Exporting seafood to Europe has been “very challenging” due to red tape in the wake of the Brexit transition period ending, Scotland’s food industry has warned.

Scotland Food and Drink said extra bureaucratic steps were creating “major problems” for perishable food which must reach markets on the continent in 24 hours.

This comes after some fishing and seafood companies described the new arrangements as a “shambles”.

Since January 1, seafood is being taken to logistics hubs in central Scotland where it can be certified for onward transport to the EU but, confusion over paperwork has meant some consignments have been held up.

James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food and Drink, said there had been problems at the hub in Larkhall, South Lanarkshire, as well as IT problems on the French side of the Channel.

He 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.”

Saying talks had been held about the problems at Larkhall, Mr Withers continued: “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.”

He said there would be a “big exercise” in the coming days to explain the new rules to companies to avoid any further delays.

Scottish salmon is among the UK’s largest food exports and is sold around the world.

SB Fish, which is based at Troon in South Ayrshire, tweeted on Wednesday that their goods had been held up en route to France and described the process as a “shambles”.

SB Fish, Exporter of Seafood and Vessel owners in the West of Scotland post on Twitter.

The UK Government earlier said they were aware of a “small number” of issues around seafood due to information not being entered correctly.

A spokeswoman said: “Both the UK and French systems are working.

“We are contacting exporters, their representatives and transporters to help them understand the requirements and we will work closely with them to keep their goods moving.

“It is vital that exporters check they have entered in details correctly and ensure that they have provided the transporter of the goods with the correct documentation.”

The Scottish Government’s Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said the logistics hubs in central Scotland had the capacity to deal with the burden of the new bureaucracy.

He said: “We know how frustrating, time consuming and indeed costly this is for Scottish businesses – we warned the UK Government that we needed much more clarity much sooner than we got on what the export process would involve after the transition period ended and that its plans to leave the single market would create barriers like this.”

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