Scotland’s salmon industry has become the unlikely beneficiary of the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to a Chinese dissident.
It was announced on Wednesday that Scottish salmon exports will be allowed directly into China for the first time following a new agreement. The deal was described as “a major boost” for the seafood industry by fisheries secretary Richard Lochhead.
The move comes just months after the People’s Republic cancelled plans to sign a similar agreement with Norway in retaliation at the awarding of the prestigious peace award to the dissident Liu Xiaobo.
Mr Liu, a 54-year-old former literature professor, was jailed for 11 years in 2009 on charges of “inciting subversion of state power” after circulating a petition calling for greater freedom in China.
China had warned in advance that the award would damage relations between Beijing and Oslo and described it as “an obscenity.” Instead it has now granted an export health certificate to Scottish stocks, allowing direct exports for the first time.
The country is one of the largest and growing markets for salmon in the world, importing more than 217,000 tonnes in 2009 equivalent to 150% of the total Scottish production.
Mr Lochhead said, “This is a very welcome announcement from China that will boost sales of a top-quality and sought-after Scottish seafood product. It provides a major boost for a crucial Scottish industry, strengthening efforts both to increase exports in a key market and to secure jobs across Scotland.”New jobs createdHe said the industry has “weathered” the economic downturn, with 234 new jobs created last year. New figures to October 2010 show exports of Scottish farmed salmon rose by almost 10% compared with the same period the previous year.
Professor Phil Thomas, chairman of the industry representative body Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation, welcomed the announcement.
“Scottish farmed salmon is in high demand at home and overseas because it is a healthy, nutritious and sustainable protein,” he said. “We have seen major investment in salmon farming in Scotland and this will help to ensure a bright future for a sector that is vital to the Scottish economy.”
Jim Gallagher, managing director of Scottish Sea Farms Ltd, said, “The People’s Republic of China is a major potential market with a significant number of discerning customers who I believe will appreciate the premium quality of our Scottish salmon.
“This new export opportunity is a welcome addition to the global markets in which we operate and I am confident it will contribute to the continued, sustainable growth of our business.”
Among the 55 countries importing Scottish farmed salmon, the main market is the UK, followed by other European countries and the USA.
The Scottish Government wants to increase the value of the food and drink sectors from £10 billion to £12.5 billion by 2017.
Liberal Democrat fisheries spokesman Liam McArthur said, “The deal to export salmon to China from Scottish farms is good news for the industry. I certainly hope that it will provide a platform from which to build in future.
“This news is particularly welcome given the potential benefits that this deal will have for outlying Scottish communities, many of whom rely on the jobs created by this industry.”