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Scottish salmon exports leap to £645 million five-year high

Tavish Scott

Scottish salmon exports have surged to £645 million, reaching their highest level in five years as international demand continues to grow. New HMRC data analysed by trade body Salmon Scotland shows that in the first four months of 2024 alone, the value of exports soared by £65 million to £250 million – a 36 per cent increase on the same period last year.

This was accompanied by a 35 per cent increase in the volume of fish transported. On a rolling annual basis, exports of the nutritious fish stand at £645 million – representing an 11 per cent increase on last year’s total of £581 million and marking the highest sales value since 2019. Salmon Scotland said that if current growth continues, 2024 could set a record for international sales, further confirming salmon’s position as the UK’s top food export.

The findings come amid calls for the next UK Government to reduce red tape introduced due to Brexit, with the trade body publishing its own manifesto this month. Salmon Scotland is urging whoever wins the general election on July 4 to improve relations with the European Union to boost exports.

The sector also wants to see the introduction of electronic export health certificates and the elimination of unnecessary paperwork associated with exporting salmon to Europe, which has been costing salmon farmers an estimated £3 million every year since Brexit. Farm-raised salmon directly employs 2,500 people in Scotland and a further 10,000 jobs are dependent on the sector.

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In the first four months of the year, 26,000 tonnes of Scottish salmon were exported to more than 40 countries, enough for more than 100 million healthy, nutritious meals. The EU continues to be the key destination for exports, accounting for £153 million worth of the total between January and April. Sales to the bloc have soared by £53 million, while volume was up by 51 per cent to almost 17,000 tonnes.

France remains the single largest market for Scottish salmon, with sales of £143 million. Elsewhere, exports of Scottish salmon beyond the EU increased 14 per cent to £97 million, with almost one-in-five salmon heading to the US (£56 million – up 13 per cent). Export growth in Asia increased by 17 per cent in value and 31 per cent in volume, reaching £37 million and 3,300 tonnes, respectively. Further analysis indicates China added £5 million market value growth to £26 million in the period. 

Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland, said:
“The reputational and economic value of Scottish salmon is immense, as reflected in these latest export figures showing a significant increase in global demand for our healthy, nutritious fish.

“As exports continue to rise, enhanced legal protection under the UK Government’s Protected Geographical Indication scheme will safeguard the Scottish salmon brand both domestically and internationally.

“Given the critical importance of revenue generation by our farmers, particularly during the cost-of-living crisis, whoever is handed the keys to Number 10 must streamline the export process for fresh Scottish salmon, ensuring quicker delivery to our customers.

“We eagerly anticipate working with the next UK Government to expand exports and boost national prosperity.

“Through salmon farming expansion, we are bolstering Scotland’s economic growth, creating quality jobs in our Highland and island communities, and supplying low-carbon, protein-rich food to meet the needs of a growing global population.”

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