Scottish fishermen raise Russian embargo fears

Mackerel Russia is the biggest market by volume for Scottish mackerel and herring

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Scottish fisherman have warned a ban on food exports to Russia could have a devastating effect on their industry.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced a "full embargo" on food imports from the EU, US and some other Western countries, in response to sanctions over Ukraine.

The Scottish Pelagic Fishermen's Association warned of a serious impact on fishermen and land-based processors.

The Scottish Fishermen's Federation also said it was "extremely concerned".

Russia is the biggest market by volume for Scottish herring and mackerel.

Scottish exports of food and drink to Russia were worth £89m in 2010.

'Serious implications'

Responding to the ban, Scottish Fishermen's Federation chief executive Bertie Armstrong said: "Although we have yet to examine the detail of these retaliatory sanctions, we are at this stage extremely concerned about the impact they will have on our mackerel fleet.

"We recognise that this is a serious geopolitical issue, but the downstream impact will hit a number of business sectors including Scottish fishing.

"Russia is a very important export market for Scottish mackerel, and the denial of access would have extremely serious implications for both mackerel fishermen and the onshore processing sector.

"We will, of course, be keeping in close contact with the Scottish and UK governments to monitor the situation as it develops, and also to discuss any support measures for the Scottish seafood sector should they be required.

"The solution to this international dispute is for Russia to come to the negotiating table."

Scottish salmon producers have said they should not be seriously affected by the ban.

'Little impact'

Scott Landsburgh, chief executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation, said: "The volume of Scottish salmon exports to Russia is currently quite low and therefore we don't expect this to have much of an impact on our aggregate export numbers."

Public body Quality Meat Scotland said the Scottish meat businesses would not be directly affected by the embargo.

Chairman Jim McLaren said: "The recent Russian ban on EU imports will not directly impact Scottish red meat producers as Scotland currently does not export red meat to Russia.

"It remains to be seen what effect, if any, the restrictions that Russia has imposed on other countries will have on the European market."

The Scottish government said: "The Scottish government has made our concerns about the situation in Ukraine clear and we fully support EU sanctions against Russia.

"Today's action by Russia will inevitably have an impact on some sectors of our economy, most notably for our fish exporters and the Scottish government is in contact with the food and drink industry to assess any implications.

"At the same time, we should note that Russia accounts for less than one per cent of our food and drink export market.

"The Scottish government continues to call on Russia to take steps to de-escalate the conflict in East Ukraine."

Last month the EU and US tightened sanctions on Russia, with Brussels applying restrictions to key sectors of the economy as well as individuals.

The first round of sanctions came after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea region in March.

President Vladimir Putin announced on Wednesday that Russia would take retaliatory sanctions, saying they would last for a year. They take effect immediately.

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