Applications still open for COVID-19 freezing scheme
Aquaculture businesses affected by the collapse of markets due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic can still apply for funding to cover the costs of maintaining unsold stock.
The scheme which will support businesses by compensating for the costs of transport, processing and cold storage for salmon, trout and shellfish, is open until the end of 2020.
Scottish Shellfish is one organisation which has successfully applied to the scheme, and has been awarded £69,000 grant funding through the European and Maritime Fisheries Fund.
Finance Director David Ingram explained:
“When restaurants and fish counters shut earlier this year as a result of the pandemic, around 20-25% of our overall turnover was wiped out overnight. It also had a knock-on effect on our members which include 19 mussel and oyster farmers, and meant that we were taking less market ready material from them and if we don’t harvest the produce when it’s ready it just goes out of specification.
“We were considering what to do about this material when we heard about this storage aid scheme and thought it sounded like a good opportunity to try and save some of this stock.
“We’ve now started to cook the mussels, add sauce and store in a freezer which gives us some options so we can continue to make sure we’re supplying stock. We’re also trying out different promotions with our customers – our recent half priced promotion with a supermarket was a storming success as we were able to manage our stock through the freezing scheme, allowing us to facilitate this type of activity.
“Receiving funding through EMFF is helping to cover these costs. While the food service sector has recovered to an extent, it’s nowhere near what it was. Most supermarkets haven’t reopened their fish counters and we need to ensure that we can place our members’ produce into other categories within our customer base or, indeed, emerging new markets. This scheme gives us the extra time to do that.
“Putting our stock into coldstores, rotating that and taking material from our farms, is beneficial for all parts of our cooperative.
“It’s hard to be certain about anything just now but one of the great things about working in food and drink is that you’ve got that market – everyone needs to eat. We’ve just had to adapt and look at our cost base and different ways of working.”
Information on Aquaculture Storage Aid scheme.