Fish and shellfish exports to the EU took a dramatic fall for January 2021
UK Fish and shellfish exports fell by a massive 83% during January according to figures released today by the Office for National Statistics (@ONS).
Seafood exports were the hardest hit following meat exports which was down 59% and dairy exports are down 50%.
Lord David Frost who has recently taken over the Trade portfolio and was the Prime Minister’s chief negotiator with the EU during Brexit said that amongst other things, people were “stockpiling last year” and COVID lockdowns reduced demands, ignoring the situation of the ban on Live Bivalve Molluscs, coming out of Category B waters, from the UK into the EU and most of all ignoring the red-tape that has caused extensive delays at ports in the UK when dealing with exporting fresh fish and shellfish, which cannot be stockpiled, into the EU.
On Twitter Lord Frost said:
“I have been looking at today’s trade numbers. This month’s unique combination of factors made it inevitable that we would see some unusual figures this January. As @ONS has pointed out, caution should be applied when interpreting these statistics.
“As well as changes to our trading relationship with the EU, we also saw:
“Evidence of stockpiling late last year (as @ONS note). This meant less need to move goods in January.
“COVID lockdowns across Europe bringing reduced demand for goods overall.
“These effects are starting to unwind. The latest information indicates that overall freight volumes between the UK and the EU have been back to their normal levels for over a month now, ie since the start of February.
“We are supporting firms through this period. Many businesses have made the changes needed to trade effectively with the EU, but we are focused on providing active and extensive support to others who need to adapt.”
Last week, on Thursday 04 March under questioning from Wendy Chamberlain, MP for North East Fife and Deidre Brock, Scottish MP for Edinburgh North and Leith at the Scottish Fishing Businesses debate, Secretary of State, George Eustice told the House that fish exports were running at approximately 85% of normal volumes, a clear contradiction to today’s statistics.
Ms Chamberlain has asked, “At the beginning of the year, the Secretary of State stood at the Dispatch Box and told Members that difficulties with the UK-EU fishing trade were just “teething problems”, but two months on those problems are still ongoing, and the Government’s compensation fund is clearly insufficient. On Tuesday, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee was told that in the medium term, we will see a lot more of the smaller companies stopping trade in Europe, and it may ultimately be their demise. That is terrible news for the East Neuk in North East Fife and their fishing fleet. Does the Secretary of State still agree with the words that he wrote in 2016, when he said:
“From the point of view of the fishing industry, the case for leaving the EU is overwhelming”?”
To which Mr Eustice replied, “Yes, I do still believe that, and we have a 25% uplift in quota as a result of the trade and co-operation agreement and regulatory freedom that we did not have before. It is worth noting that we are now seeing lorry loads of fish clearing border control posts in France typically in under an hour—sometimes a little longer, but it is an improving situation. Volumes of trade are back up to around 85% of normal volumes.
Ms Brock had asked, “The Prime Minister said a week ago that he thought the fishing industry could be saved if we only ate more British fish. Two months ago, the Leader of the House said that the fish are “happier” because of Brexit. In January, the DEFRA Secretary said the collapse of exports was a “teething problem”. Can the flippancy end now, and can we get some serious answers for the industry? Some Scottish businesses still face three-day waits to get their fresh fish to EU markets. Does the Government not accept that they have got it wrong and that the taskforces and other sticking plasters are not enough? Will they get back to the negotiating table with the EU, eat some humble pie and accept whatever regulatory alignment and other measures are necessary to save the industry?
The Secretary of State replied: As I said, volumes of fish exports are currently running at about 85% of normal volumes. Given coronavirus and the lockdown in the EU, we think that is probably about the right level, given the stress to the markets in the European Union. It is an improving situation. Well over half of all consignments now clear border control posts within an hour, and typically in 45 minutes. Over 90% are clearing them within three hours, so we do not recognise the figure that the hon. Lady gives of three days.
James Wither from Scotland Food and Drink decried todays stats saying “Seafood is the UK’s biggest food export. To be clear, none of that was stockpiled & we haven’t seen that level of fall until Brexit hit. A horror show.
“As always, 1 month’s figures never tell the whole story.
“But all we’ve heard from businesses of the pain of new trade barriers is in these figures.
“Feb & Mar will show some pick-up in exports but, for the food sector, a restructuring of EU supply chains has begun, away from UK.
“There’s no sugar-coating these statistics, they are grim.
“And, yes, it’s Brexit.”
by Oliver McBride