Financial support for Scottish seafood processors to help them through economic pressures related to COVID-19 will be available through a new £10m scheme.
With many seafood businesses fighting for survival, threatening livelihoods in coastal communities, the Scottish Seafood Business Resilience Fund is providing grants and loans to businesses suffering severe hardship following the shutdown of international markets and the UK foodservice industry.
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “The Scottish Government is working flat out to support businesses which are adversely affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Parts of the seafood sector have been decimated by the collapse of the export and hospitality markets, and are now struggling to survive.
Seafood processors 'lifeblood' of communities
“Our seafood processors are the lifeblood of many rural and coastal communities, supporting thousands of local jobs and producing some of the finest seafood in the world. The industry has been very clear that cashflow is the critical issue facing businesses and this new fund seeks to inject capital into businesses to help them meet their ongoing costs, keep the business solvent and keep people on the payroll.
“Our approach is rightly focused on those businesses that may need our support the most and we would encourage others that can step in to help, to do so. I am also exploring how supermarkets and other retailers might help ensure more of Scotland’s seafood reaches Scottish consumers to help create alternative markets.
“I continue to have regular discussions with the industry during this time and I pay tribute to the leadership shown by the Scottish Seafood Association and Seafood Scotland. We will now move to get these funds out of the door as quickly as possible to assist a sector that has been a real success story for the Scottish economy.”
Food redistribution fund
Meanwhile, the UK Government has launched a £3.25m fund for food redistribution businesses and charities, intended to support staff, infrastructure and transport costs. The Government hoped to redistribute up to 14,000 tonnes of food surplus with these measures during the coronavirus outbreak.
Environment minister Rebecca Pow said the funding would benefit both society and the environment by ensuring the amount of food that went to waste was minimised.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs-funded grant scheme will be managed Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and is the latest in a series of Government grants to help tackle food waste in the UK – last year’s Food Waste Reduction Fund prevented 2,000t of food from going to waste.
It also followed measures by the Government to help facilitate the redistribution of food, such as the relaxation of competition law to allow supermarkets to share data with each other on stock levels, in a bid to co-operate to keep shops open and share distribution depots and delivery vans.
Marcus Gover, chief executive of WRAP, added it was critical to maximise the amount of surplus food redistributed during these “unprecedented times”.
“These grants offer crucial financial support to redistribution organisations, where it will have the most impact,” said Gover. “We know from managing redistribution funds that this money will make a huge difference to many people.”
Government food waste champion Ben Elliot said it was of paramount importance to ensure food didn’t go to waste and that the money went to the organisations doing pivotal work in delivering foods to those who needed it.
The grant partly comes from the £15m food waste fund opened in 2019. Applications for funding are split into three phases with the first phase now open; WRAP is targeting small redistribution organisations that have previously applied for funding.
Phases 2 and 3
Phases 2 and 3 will be launched on Thursday 9 April. Phase 2 will provide funding opportunities for small surplus food redistributors, while phase 3 will be aimed at medium to larger operators. For more information on how to apply, click here.
Commenting at the launch of the funding, Rene Meijer, chief executive of Sheffield-based food redistribution organisation The Food Works, said: “Over the past two weeks, we have doubled the amount of food we redistribute, as many tonnes of food goes spare from businesses closing and people change their shopping habits.
“Surplus food redistribution is all about providing resilience to the community and, at a time like this, we need resilience more than ever to ensure good food does not go to waste and reaches those who need it.”
Meanwhile, the UK Government has been urged to provide greater support for small food and drink businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, as these were predicting at least a 33% loss in revenue as a direct result of the virus.