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UK travel ban hits seafood exports

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With a growing number of countries introducing bans on people and goods arriving from the United Kingdom because of concerns about the spread of a new variant of coronavirus, the seafood industry has warned that businesses and livelihoods are now at risk.

On the evening of Sunday, 20 December, France shut its border with the U.K. for 48 hours, meaning that no trucks or ferries could sail from the port of Dover. Meanwhile, India, Hong Kong, Canada, Switzerland, and Germany have suspended flights from the U.K., with more countries announcing their intention to follow suit.

Seafood Scotland Chief Executive Donna Fordyce said that Sunday’s French border blockade could not have come at a worse time for the nation’s seafood industry, with many companies depending on this week to replenish financial reserves before the oncoming months of Brexit disruption.

“The seafood sector is hanging by a thread, and this latest blow is beyond devastating; 21 and 22 December are the busiest days of every year, as Europe traditionally enjoys premium seafood as part of their Christmas Eve celebrations. This week was to be the shining light between a horrendous 2020 and a looming Brexit transition. Many companies have been working flat out for a week to fulfill massive orders from Europe,” Fordyce said. “Much of the seafood to fulfill these huge orders has been caught or landed and is either on the road or was about to be. Seafood companies and processors have purchased millions of pounds worth of catch for orders that won’t now see the market and being highly perishable, it can’t be shelved or stockpiled. The companies will take the hit of the spoiled goods, and some may not survive long enough to see whether insurance pays out.”

The rapid spread of the new coronavirus variant has led to the introduction of strict new mixing rules for millions of people in the U.K., in addition to the border closings. Fordyce said the sector needs urgent help to make it through the latest developments.

“Firstly, they need the border open safely, and high-value perishables prioritized so they can hit the last markets of the year. Companies need clarity from the insurance sector as to whether losses already sustained will be covered, and they will need help from government in the short term,” Fordyce said. “And finally, the last 24 hours have really brought home the urgent need for more time to prepare for Brexit. A grace period for checks and new paperwork would be enormously welcomed. In 24 hours, everything has changed and if the industry doesn’t get help now, the wider consequences could be dire.”

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