Jimmy Buchan, chief executive of the Scottish Seafood Association (SSA), pointed out that while people are concerned about the fall of the pound against the dollar, it is stronger against the euro, giving seafood exporters more favourable returns, reports Tim Oliver.
But processors’ biggest concerns are the cost of electricity and access to labour, he told Fishing News.
“Processors are big users of energy, and electricity costs are having a crippling effect on business,” he said.
“We have continually lobbied the government for the seafood sector to be included in the government’s Energy Intensive Industries Exemption Scheme. The chicken industry is included, which produces protein, so why not seafood, which is a very competitive and natural source of protein?”
He said the SSA had been working with Seafish on an application to be included in the scheme. He gave this to new fisheries minister Mark Spencer when he visited Peterhead last week, and asked him to make it a priority.
Jimmy Buchan told the minister that the processing sector also needs labour. “Lack of access to labour is holding the country back, and we’ve been telling the government that for years,” he said.
“He did say – and he was quite open – that if we’d asked the Home Office about this a month ago it would have been a closed door, but it now appears to be ajar, and the mood music coming out of No. 10 is that the country needs access to workers.
“Everyone is screaming for labour and a more planned route. Whether it’s access via the skilled worker visa or other routes, we don’t mind – we just need to do something instead of keeping these restrictions.”
He said the fall in the pound had maybe made the UK slightly less lucrative for some, but he still believed there are people in the world who would ‘relish the opportunity to come and learn new skills in a country that is one of largest economies in the world’.
This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here.