Calais crisis could sink Scottish seafood firms

By Alice Foster

- Last updated on GMT

The travel chaos could sink Scottish seafood firms
The travel chaos could sink Scottish seafood firms

Related tags Channel tunnel

Scottish seafood businesses could be forced into bankruptcy due to the traffic chaos at Channel ports, as a top UK business group warns of the mounting financial impact of delays to exports.

Hundreds of trucks were stuck in queues on the M20 yesterday after at least 1,500 migrants tried to enter the Eurotunnel terminal and a Sudanese migrant died on Tuesday night.

As well as migrants storming the Channel Tunnel and ferry worker strikes, French farmers had destroyed Scottish fish in Brittany as part of a dispute over cheap imports. 

Will Clark, chairman of the Scottish Seafood Association (SSA), said these problems have had a “severe”​ impact on the Scottish seafood industry over the past six weeks.

“It’s been absolutely horrendous – to the point of some of my members now have stopped sending fresh produce to Europe because they cannot guarantee a supply date,” ​he said.

‘Serious knock-on consequences’

In recent weeks customers in France, Italy and Spain have also stopped placing orders, and he said: “It’s going to have serious knock-on consequences going forward.”

Asked if jobs could be at risk, Clark said there was only so much produce that can be frozen and companies were being forced to use up their working capital on freezing without gaining income.

“It’s not a problem that going to be resolved overnight, I think it’s inevitable there will be casualties,” ​he added.  

“We could be looking at losing companies, losing jobs and the prospect of maybe having to an extent tell the fleet to tie up for a short period of time because we cannot sell the produce.”

On top of fresh produce being spoilt en route to Europe, the crisis may reduce prices on the quayside leaving fishermen with no alternative but to stop fishing for a time.

Meanwhile, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has called on the UK and French governments to quickly resolve the situation and maintain clear routes.

CBI deputy director-general Katja Hall said: “While clearly hampering holidaymakers, the disruption at Calais also has an economic impact as exporters are being delayed getting their goods to market.”

Verdict from the SSA

“We could be looking at losing companies, losing jobs and the prospect of maybe having to an extent tell the fleet to tie up for a short period of time because we cannot sell the produce.”

  • Will Clark, Scottish Seafood Association

The Scottish government also raised concerns over the impact on Scottish seafood production and export businesses earlier this week.

Fisheries secretary Richard Lochhead urged the UK government to press for prioritisation of products with a short shelf-life such as seafood.

‘Serious and unacceptable’

“The disruption and damage to Scottish exports is serious and unacceptable. Delays are bad enough but destruction of the valuable cargoes cannot continue,” ​he said.

“It is extremely troubling to hear from a number of fish processors who are worried about the impact the intermittent closure of the channel tunnel is having on their businesses.

“With orders being cancelled and products being rejected as delays affect the quality, Scottish businesses are losing significant sums of money.”

Lorry driver Sean Swan said he was given a police escort from Junction 8 on the M20 to Dover because he was carrying live fish on Tuesday.

“We bypassed thousands of stranded lorries. At one stage I felt drunk with tiredness at the wheel of a 44t machine,” he told the BBC.

An emergency meeting of the government’s COBRA (Cabinet office briefing room A) council convened yesterday to find answers to the deepening migrant crisis.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) also reiterated calls for the French military to be deployed to secure the Port of Calais.

RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said: “For the thousands of British drivers whose lives are now being put at risk on a regular basis, a quick and effective solution to the current situation must be found.”

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