Leading Journal of the Irish & UK Fishing Industries

The recovery period after COVID-19 is a “golden opportunity” for Scotland’s seafood processors to set the highest global standards, according to the sector’s leaders.

Pioneering work on hygiene and social distancing to allow continued operation during the pandemic mark the start of a drive for excellence.

Scottish Seafood Association chief executive Jimmy Buchan said: “The impact of COVID-19 on our sector has been severe, with demand haemorrhaging in both export and domestic markets since mid-March.

“Most businesses have been operating at significantly reduced capacity and some unfortunately have been forced to close.

But as we come out of it, and with Brexit now just over six months away, we have a golden opportunity to set the highest global standards in the supply chain and create a fit-for-purpose, profitable processing sector that will complement our sustainable fisheries and modern fishing fleet.”

In a paper, “Securing Recovery from Covid-19”, Mr Buchan said that success would require the support of both the Scottish and UK governments in relation to COVID-19 recovery and Brexit.

“Economic viability will be restored through the rebuilding of markets, and the vast repository of knowledge and understanding of these markets that exists within the sector will be accessible to ministers and officials through giving processors’ representatives a seat at the table when solutions are under discussion.

“A similar level of engagement is required on Brexit, since the maintenance of tariff-free trade with the EU beyond December 2020 will be critically important to ensure that the COVID-19 recovery is not crushed. The industry anticipates signs of recovery in shellfish markets in particular just as the transition period comes to an end.”

The SSA is also calling for both governments to involve the sector in the design of the replacement for EMFF, which it says must be open to companies of all sizes, not solely small and medium-sized enterprises, and relax state aid rules.