The public and businesses jumped at the chance to come to the rescue as the seafood industry is put under strain from border closures.
A kind-hearted offer to save tonnes of seafood and help businesses affected by France closing its border to the UK has received a huge outpouring of support online.
Seafood Scotland shared a Tweet calling out to seafood firms in need having teamed up with a Scottish firm that offered up its cold storage facilities for businesses affected by the crisis.
Currently seafood firms are struggling to get their produce to market due to France closing its borders following news of a variant Covid strain circulating in Britain.
‼️ Calling all #seafood companies ‼️ A Scottish firm with significant cold storage facilities has offered to open up during the ongoing border crisis. If any businesses would benefit from these in the coming days, they are making this capacity available free of charge 1/2
— Seafood Scotland (@SeafoodScotland) December 21, 2020
The space was offered up free of charge by the unnamed donor and was available for companies to hold their stock in if needed.
The tweet was shared more than 900 times by the public with 1.1k people liking it.
— Caroline Wengel 🏴 (@scotfoodcarolin) December 22, 2020
What is it they say "necessity is the mother of invention". Great idea. Best of luck to everyone involved.
— yreilly (@yariemari) December 21, 2020
That's what we need in these times, a bit of solidarity.#welldone
— Nikki (@BromleyBeau) December 21, 2020
And it wasn’t just the public supporting the move to help the seafood sector, other Scottish businesses were also backing the industry body in getting the message out to help others.
From fish processors to homemade preserve firms, not to mention other food and drink networks, hundreds took to social media to help spread the word.
— ACSSltd (@acsssoftwareltd) December 21, 2020
Helping out it’s what folk do. 👍Thankfully. 🙌🙌 https://t.co/eCJYPpseyc
— Millers Larder (@Millers_Larder) December 22, 2020
— Appetite for Angus (@appetite4angus) December 21, 2020
Sadly, seafood firms weren’t able to take up the kind offers due to the very particular conditions their fresh produce needs to be kept in.
According to Clare MacDougall, head of trade marketing at Seafood Scotland, it is primarily live shellfish and fresh salmon producers that are being affected by the border crisis.
She said: “One of the companies had been a bit ahead of the game and had all of their Christmas orders out and had additional storage space, and offered it up to anyone who needed it for free. This is obviously an amazing gesture from the company but so far no one has come back to request it.
“I think the reason being is that most of the product which is being affected by this is live shellfish and fresh salmon. The live shellfish can’t go into cold storage and if it doesn’t get through the borders it will have to come back and be spoiled. My understanding from the salmon companies is that they are just going to come back and try sell in the UK. I think most of the companies have their own storage to do that.
“Speaking to different companies some are taking different approaches. Some are trying to get the product over the borders but there’s such a limited timescale to do that, so others are turning the lorries around and bringing it back.”
The current seafood industry landscape
Looking at the situation as a whole, chief executive of Seafood Scotland, Donna Fordyce, has been busy working to establish a plan of action for seafood businesses but says it is too late for lorries to make it to France in time for the last Christmas market of the year.
She added: “The window wherein companies would be able to salvage anything from the last couple of days is now, to all intents and purposes, closed for premium seafood, which has been perishing by the roadside since Sunday night.
“Millions has been lost, much of it by small companies that were depending on this trade for survival. Even if an agreement is reached and lorries start getting through to France today, they will not make it in time for the last Christmas market of the year.”
And she says it is clear financial support will be needed from the government to help cover these “major losses” to businesses of all sizes, and if there is any opportunity for Scottish seafood firms to get access to the markets between Christmas and New Year, a plan must be actioned now.
“From our conversations with insurance companies, no policies will cover these major losses and without financial support from government many companies that were relying on these crucial 48 hours of trading to replenish their cash flow, will tragically go to the wall,” said Donna.
“We fully understand that the concerns are for public safety, so what we urgently need is routine testing of drivers, and then clear prioritisation for seafood and other live cargo so that deliveries can begin again. There are still markets in Europe between Christmas and New Year, and Scottish seafood companies must have access to them to try to claw back some of the financial damage done this week.
“The last 48 hours has given us a terrifying insight into what the situation could be come January 1. While passage may not be formally blocked by then, there remains a ‘red tape blockade’ which will likely have exactly the same impact as the last 48 hours.
“UK seafood companies need a reasonable administrative grace period to enable them to put in place the paperwork, the nature of which won’t be clear until we have a deal, enabling them to work out how to trade across new hard borders. Without this, it could be weeks before trade starts again and by that time many businesses, jobs, families and communities will have already reached breaking point.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon addressed the situation in the Scottish Parliament today, touching on the ongoing affects the delays are having on businesses up and down the country.
She said: “This situation is serious, it’s urgent and for our food exporters it is rapidly deteriorating. It needs the UK Government to reach an agreement with France without delay to get freight moving again. There is simply no time to lose.
“We have no immediate concerns about food supplies. Supermarkets are well stocked and so there is absolutely no need for anyone to buy more than planned in the run up to Christmas.
“If the situation is not resolved in the next day or so we may start to see some pressure on fresh produce after Christmas but that is not a concern right now and I hope it will not arise at all.
“What is of real and immediate concern is the impact on our food exporters and especially the Scottish seafood sector. This is the peak time of year for seafood exports and the Christmas export trade is almost certainly lost. That is devastating for our world-class seafood businesses and they do need and will get our support. We are liaising with the sector on the need for immediate financial support and I also raised the issue of compensation at COBRA yesterday.”