Leading Journal of the Irish & UK Fishing Industries

A major survey is underway to find out the financial and socioeconomic impact of Covid-19 on the seafood processing industry in the UK and to put together a profile of the sector.

Running throughout July and August, the survey is being conducted by Seafish, the public body that supports the £10bn UK seafood industry.

Seafood processors are asked to provide information on how COVID-19 has affected their business and how they are responding. The survey also asks for financial data and information on operations and recruitment to determine the size and economic performance of the sector.

Commenting on the survey, Ana Witteveen, Economist at Seafish, said:

“Early returns from the survey show that, unsurprisingly, many seafood processing businesses had to reduce production or close down completely in response to COVID-19 and lockdown restrictions.

“Sadly for some businesses the doors may never reopen, with smaller processors at particular risk of owners opting to wind down or retire early.

“However, some smaller processors have proved particularly agile in responding to the extraordinary circumstances of recent months.

“Businesses with small workforces or staffed by family members have been reporting that they were able to quickly implement new working methods and continue to operate throughout.

“Some small processors have also been able to adapt by setting up or scaling up home delivery offerings and online sales.

“This has offset the absence of wholesale trade, and the increased margins associated with retail has seen some businesses reporting that profits are up compared to the same period last year.

“For larger processors who may be more dependent on wholesale trade, and who have had to remodel work spaces to meet new guidance, we are tending to see a gradual return of workers, with more being brought back from furlough each week.

“These of course are only the early indications from the first businesses we have spoken to.

“It is clear that we are looking at a mixed and complicated landscape. We would invite all seafood processing businesses to take part in the survey to help us put together the most accurate picture we can of the sector as it weathers current challenges, adapts to new working practices and prepares for the future.”

Commenting on the survey Jimmy Buchan, Chief Executive Officer of the Scottish Seafood Association (the national representative body for seafood processors in Scotland) said:

“While we know the challenges we are facing, we should never underestimate the importance of clear statistical and financial data on the sector.

“When the Scottish Government was developing the Scottish Seafood Business Resilience Fund, it was data from previous Seafish processing surveys that they turned to.

“This really illustrates to me that, while we can debate whether the right support has been provided, we will always be better placed to make our case to governments if we have the data to support it.”

“I would strongly encourage seafood businesses of all sizes, wherever you are in the UK, to fully engage with Seafish to complete the survey and provide the requested financial data.”

Seafish will attempt to contact all UK seafood processing businesses and invite them to take part in a short phone call, and in some cases a subsequent online survey.

The survey results are used by the government to understand how the sector is impacted by changes in policy, and can also be used by the industry to highlight to the government the challenges it faces and provide evidence to support this.

They also inform Seafish’s own work in supporting the seafood processing sector. The 2018 survey revealed 353 sites which derive 50% or more of their annual turnover from seafood processing, supporting 19,191 full-time equivalent jobs.

For further information on the survey or other support Seafish can offer seafood processing businesses visit seafish.org/article/seafood-processing-insight-analysis or contact processingenquiries@seafish.co.uk