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One Scottish fish exporter's story: 'We will come through this — but it will take some time!'

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By Alasdair Sandford
Traders work at Peterhead fish market in Peterhead, north of Aberdeen, northeast Scotland on August 27, 2014.
Traders work at Peterhead fish market in Peterhead, north of Aberdeen, northeast Scotland on August 27, 2014.   -   Copyright  JACQUELINE PIETSCH/AFP
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GT Seafoods supplies fish to both the UK and France, exporting species such as coley, ling, monkfish and hake. The French market is "very valuable to us," says Graeme Tallis, who set up the company based near Peterhead on Scotland's east coast in 2003.

The UK's biggest fishing port has been bearing the brunt of post-Brexit red-tape problems, with reports of blocked exports and collapsed prices. since Britain left the EU's trading structures when the transition period ended on January 1.

Exporters were on the whole about 70-80% ready for the new rules, Tallis believes, acknowledging however that some extra work was required and this has caught some by surprise. He has heard some "horrific stories" in the first week of January, with some exporters encountering long delays and fish being spoiled.

"If a truck has produce for multiple customers and one supplier gets the paperwork wrong, the whole lot gets stuck for ages until the problem is resolved, he says. "French customers need confidence, and that's low right now."

"We were thinking out of the box early on," he adds, explaining that GT Seafoods set up its own company in Boulogne so that they could "export to ourselves" and avoid the danger of trucks becoming tied up for 2-3 days.

"To be fair to the French, they understand the situation and are trying to help," he says, adding that he believes the problems can be overcome.

Graeme Tallis admits that the bureaucracy involved with exports will certainly bring extra costs — and work.

"There are batch codes, commodity codes, new computer systems, a lot of extra work. You're up at 4 am and your day is extended for a good few hours more to deal with it."

As for the problems at the home port of Peterhead, Tallis says prices have dipped for some species, but not all. "Cod, for example, is still fetching a healthy price," he says.

The pandemic and other factors unrelated to Brexit are also affecting the market, he explains, adding that boats often land in Denmark at this time of year.

"The fishing weather has been good in January this year so boats have been catching a lot of fish whereas is previous years some don’t even make it out of port!"

He blames no-one for the current situation, saying "we are where we are". "I'm sure we'll come through this, but it will hit people in the pocket," he concludes.