The government is to provide up to £23m of funding for seafood exporters across the UK, to support businesses which have been most adversely affected by the Covid pandemic and the challenges of adjusting to new regulatory requirements for exporting post-Brexit
There has been widespread media coverage of problems experienced by Scottish firms seeking to export shellfish to the EU, with delays at ports caused in part by the paperwork needed for new regulations resulting in produce becoming unfit for sale.
The fishing industry has already been hit by the reduction in demand from the hospitality sector in the UK and other export markets as a result of the coronavirus pandemic with market prices falling by as much as 40%.
The Treasury said the move to provide more funding is in recognition of what it called ‘the unique circumstances of the fishing sector’, which has had the most significant new requirements to adjust to, and for whom even a short delay can lead to goods perishing - at a time when the industry is facing lower market prices and demand due to the pandemic.
The fund will be targeted at fishing export businesses who can evidence a genuine loss in exporting fish and shellfish to the EU. Support will be available immediately and paid retrospectively to cover losses incurred since 1 January 2021. The scheme will be targeted at small and medium enterprises and the maximum claim available to individual operators will be £100,000.
The Marine Management Organisation will administer the scheme on behalf of exporters across the UK. More details will be available on eligibility criteria in the coming days, following consultation with industry groups and the devolved administrations.
Steve Barclay, chief secretary to the Treasury, said: ‘It is vital that no community nor region within our United Kingdom is left behind as we continue to support British jobs and build back better from the coronavirus pandemic.’
In addition to funding, the government has said it will provide further support to businesses in adapting to new export processes. Defra and HMRC will be offering targeted, proactive and hands on support to fisheries exporters to help them successfully meet the new requirements. This includes a new training package and focused workshop sessions.
Seafood exports to the EU require specific procedures, customs declarations, Catch Certificates and Export Health Certificates (EHCs).