OVER 5,000 tonnes of salmon exported to the EU has ‘disappeared’ from official records, Scottish salmon farmers have confirmed, sparking an urgent inquiry.
Stats released by HMRC for January bizarrely stated that just 86 tonnes of Scottish salmon had been exported to Europe, despite official EU Eurostat import figures putting the figure at 4,500 tonnes.
In a further twist, Scottish salmon farmers have now waded in, confirming that the true number exported in January 2021 is in fact close to 5,000 tonnes of fish, leaving the EU’s stats wrong by 500 tonnes, and the UK’s by a whopping 4,914.
The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) says there is an urgent need for irregularities in post-Brexit HMRC export figures to be addressed, with an investigation now confirmed.
The atmosphere quickly turned salty as producers gave evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee yesterday, with Hamish Macdonell, the SSPO’s director of strategic engagement, telling MPs there was a serious issue over the validity of the export statistics.
Speaking outside the committee, he said: “Scotland’s salmon producers sent about 5,000 tonnes of salmon to Europe in January. The Eurostat system which records how much Scottish salmon went into the EU records about 4,500 tonnes arriving there.
“Yet according to the official HMRC figures published on behalf of the UK Government, we only exported 80 tonnes, which is only about three per cent of the amount that actually went there.
“There has been a big problem, at the very least in January in terms of the collation of the figures. Something happened, to do with the way the figures were collected, and we don’t know who is to blame or where the problem has come from.”
Responding to the issue highlighted by the SSPO, the Under Secretary of State for Scotland, David Duguid MP, assured the Committee that he would tackle the dilema, saying: “There is an investigation ongoing and the HMRC are looking into where that discrepancy has come from.”
On the positive side, in an interview this morning with the BBC, leading Salmon farmers revealed that exports to the EU post-Brexit have been off the scales compared to last year, with more salmon sent to Europe than last year.
Throughout the referendum campaign, remainers long predicted that exports from the industry would dramatically decline should UK voters opt to leave the European Union. Such claims however now seem to have been nothing more than fishcious rumours.
There has so far been no comment from Sturgeon.