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Seafood Processing


New study supports growth ambition for north east Scotland seafood processing industry

The seafood processing sector across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire presents a significant growth opportunity for the region’s economy. Its development can anchor quality jobs and value-adding activity in coastal communities for the long term.

The findings of a new study demonstrate the scale and value of the £700m industry and support the case for transformational investment to deliver business growth, new jobs and increase processing activity, particularly in Fraserburgh, Peterhead and Aberdeen.

Key findings from the study include:

  • north east Scotland’s ports account for 57% of fish landed in Scotland per annum;
  • the 200,000 tonnes of fish and shellfish landed in the region is worth more than £233m;
  • the region’s £700m turnover processing sector employs 4,000 people and is nationally significant;
  • more than 70 seafood processing, manufacturing and value-adding businesses operate in the area; and
  • the industry is a substantial exporter of whitefish, pelagic species and shellfish to the EU and rest of the world.

Aberdeenshire Council commissioned the “Future Proofing the Seafood Industry” study on behalf of funders North East of Scotland Fisheries Local Action Group (NESFLAG), Seafood Scotland and Opportunity North East (ONE). The North East Scotland Fisheries Development Partnership carried out the initial scoping work.

The study provides a detailed and authoritative analysis of the strategic position of the seafood processing sector in north east Scotland, based upon primary evidence gathered immediately before the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown of March 2020.

The region’s seafood sector expects the volume of fish landed to increase after Brexit. There is widespread support from businesses, industry organisations, and stakeholders for investment in processing capacity to capture a larger share of fish landed and maximise value-adding activity in the region.

There is a strong case for investment in this significant part of Scotland’s food manufacturing industry. However, it does face challenges, including the economic impact of coronavirus, raw material supply and skills.

The study identifies an investable cluster of businesses that can drive sector growth in the region and sets out priority areas for action and investment. These include increasing processing and value-adding capacity, quality standards, developing support infrastructure, market development and product innovation, premiumisation, supply chain integration, and automation.

The study’s findings have informed the Seafood Transformation Project (STP), being developed with industry and partners and led by ONE. The STP aims to significantly grow the Scottish seafood processing sector with a five-year action and investment programme delivered with public and private funding. The STP business case, funded by ONE and the Scottish Government, is in draft development and review with industry and key partners. The partners include the Scottish Government, Aberdeenshire Council, Seafood Scotland, Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Seafood Association. There is an ongoing consultation with stakeholders, including the UK Government.

The study’s findings are being presented to industry, partners and stakeholders in an online event today (Friday 30 October). The report can be accessed at http://publications.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/dataset/future-proofing-the-seafood-industry-report.

Andrew Newton, NESFLAG Chair, said: “NESFLAG supports the sustainable development of coastal communities located in Angus and Aberdeenshire, primarily by funding eligible project applications with demonstrable associations with the fisheries sector. NESFLAG can also commission projects. The need for a strategic analysis of the local seafood processing sector was identified by members as a key priority. The Future Proofing the Seafood Industry study being launched today provides a timely and objective evidence base for targeted investment in the sector to support the wider seafood industry and coastal communities.”

Councillor John Cox, Vice-Chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee and Chair of the North East Scotland Fisheries Development Partnership, commented: “I welcome the initiative to future proof the industry. The fleet is well invested. Major investment is required in seafood processing – in capacity, new product development and skills to capture more value from local landings and reduce the flow south of unprocessed fish. The delivery of the recommendations will ensure our coastal communities will benefit from hundreds of new, high-value jobs including marketing, finance, engineering and distribution. I welcome the support from project partners, but the key driver will be financial support from both UK and Scottish Governments for what is a vital industry, locally and nationally.”

Donna Fordyce, Head of Seafood Scotland, said: “The market demand for high quality Scottish seafood is renowned across the world. Here we have an opportunity to transform the processing sector further with increased landings allowing the sector to add more value to the seafood, to create better efficiencies, resulting in more profitability and investment into the sector. This in turn creates a huge economic benefit for fragile rural seafood dependent communities.”

Sir Ian Wood KT GBE, Chair of ONE, said the seafood sector provides an immediate growth opportunity and will be a vital element of the national food and drink economic recovery plan post-COVID-19.

“There is a critical mass of seafood processing businesses and fish landed in north east Scotland, and we expect fish landings to increase after Brexit. These factors create a unique and immediate opportunity to deliver sustainable growth in this nationally-significant food processing, manufacturing and exporting sector. The study’s findings inform the detailed business case for the Seafood Transformation Project that aims to increase value-adding activity, exports, business growth and quality jobs in the region for the long term. Investing in infrastructure, processing capacity and advanced manufacturing, market development, and people, skills and quality assurance over five years, could boost sector turnover by up to 35% and create at least 900 new jobs with potential for many more. Securing the public and private funding to transform the sector and drive economic recovery in our coastal communities is the priority for the project partners,” said Sir Ian.

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