Exports of Shetland caught or grown fish have hit new heights according to figures which show UK salmon and mackerel exports were worth three-quarters of a billion last year.
Food and Drink Federation (FDF) figures for 2014 show salmon – around one-third of which is grown in Shetland – is now the UK’s main food export, with sales worth £626.3m, up 7.3 per cent from last year.
The US was the single biggest export market for Scottish salmon for the fifth year running with sales up £26.3m to £228.6m.
France was the number two market and the most important EU outlet with sale up £24m to £134m.Chinese sales were up £13.7m to £64.2m.
The figures released earlier this month before the Boston Seafood Expo reveal that the farmed salmon sector saw its sales value to the USA rise from £155m in 2012 to nearly £215m last year – a two-year increase of almost 40 per cent.
Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO) chief executive Scott Landsburgh said: “These impressive figures are the result of the fantastic reputation our salmon enjoys in the USA. Quality and Scottish provenance are key to the American market.
“Major retail chains and high end restaurants are delighted with the salmon we supply from Scotland. The industry has been supported by Scottish Development International (SDI) to open more market opportunities for Scottish salmon, making the USA our largest export market”.
He added that the industry and Scottish government had set a production target of 210,000 tonnes by 2020, to be achieved through sustainable growth.
“In order to reach this target, industry needs planning permissions to open new sites or to modify what’s already there.
These approvals are not keeping pace, putting growth at risk. Competition from other salmon producing nations is fierce and we are mindful they are waiting in the wings to claim their share of the market,” he said.
Scottish Development International head of food and drink Susan Beattiesaid: “It’s great to hear that salmon has performed so well on exports in 2014 – this reflects the growing international demand for quality Scottish produce.
“The US is one of the ‘top prospect’ markets in the Scotland food and drink export plan and these excellent figures demonstrate this.”
Scottish mackerel exports meanwhile overcame Russian marketing difficulties to soar 44 per cent between August and December despite fears over the impact of the trade ban imposed last August by Russia.
UK government figures showed that exports to Nigeria rose by almost £17m on the same period in 2013. Exports to China were up by nearly £5m.Total exports increased by £29m to £115m over the year.
Scottish fishing and food secretary Richard Lochhead said: “This significant rise in mackerel exports is great news and shows how well the sector is responding to the challenge of the Russian Trade Sanctions.
“We are committed to supporting our fishermen,” he said and the figures “are good news for them and the Scottish economy.”
UK environment secretary Elizabeth Truss said: “I was determined to do all we could to support our mackerel fishermen in the face of this unjustified ban.
“This is great news for our fishermen and shows when it comes to quality produce, Scotland and the rest of the UK are leading the pack.”
According to FDF figures the top three export product categories were salmon, chocolate and cheese.
The EU remains the UK’s biggest market for food and drink exports. Food and non-alcoholic drink exports have almost doubled in value over the last decade, from £6.5bn in 2004 to £12.8bn in 2014.