Marks & Spencer: rules, scale could price salmon too high

William Stoichevski

UK retailer, Marks & Spencer, has told a Scottish parliamentary committee investigating salmon-farming that it is concerned rules changes and small-scale sites could upset domestic supermarket sales, given the British pound’s depreciation.

With Scottish salmon growers exporting more to higher-priced markets abroad, UK salmon prices are already being impacted by less salmon in circulation. In a statement to parliamentarians and their experts on the Rural Economy Committee, the retailer said overly restrictive rules and thinned out fish-farms could raise national prices even more.

“We must however be conscious of the industry remaining price competitive so that it satisfies the demand for salmon products from UK customers,” the statement said. “We are also concerned about the lack of efficiency of some production sites in Scotland, often driven by their small scale and their inability to expand.

M&S said it gets all of its 10,000 tonnes of farmed Scottish salmon from Scottish Sea Farms and already has in-place its own guidelines for how that salmon has to be farmed. The result, it says, is its Lochmuir Code of Practice, which adds to industry best practices with innovation and traceability demands, and the worry was that innovation would suffer under a stifling new regime.

Costs passed-on
The retailer wasn’t done there and warned that compliance with overly strict new rules, now in the works, could force costs that would then have to be passed on to consumers already feeling higher prices.

Read Second Scots Committee switching from lice to livelihoods

“It is already the case that Scottish salmon farming operates in a strict regulatory environment, with very stringent governance and planning processes, which means that compliance can be expensive, time-consuming and at times onerous for farmers.

“Therefore, we need to ensure there is an appropriate balance found between maintaining strong regulation in Scotland whilst not stifling industry investment and innovation in the salmon aquaculture sector, which might risk the industry falling behind its salmon competitors such as Norway and Chile.”

Retailer survivability
“To this end, we wonder whether a review of the planning and farming consent process could be undertaken, to determine the potential to improve efficiencies and costs of production in Scotland, as this might help Scottish salmon farmers to be more globally competitive in the future.”

The company said most of the issues now being explored “are bigger than our supply chain and require solutions at a national level as well as significant investment from the sector itself”.

Caught in a vicious war of retail margins and market share in the populace UK, the company seemed to issue a warning on the impact to its thousands of employees that prohibitively expensive salmon-farming could have.

“Farmed salmon is our most important seafood raw material by both volume and value.”

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