Potential job cuts at Scottish farmed salmon producer

By Douglas Fraser
Business and economy editor, Scotland

Published
image captionScotland has more than 200 fish farms in sea lochs around the west coast and Orkney and Shetland

The biggest producer of farmed salmon in Scotland has warned of potential job cuts in the coming years.

Mowi, formerly Marine Harvest, said there could be a 10% reduction in its worldwide headcount by 2024.

The firm has more than 800 Mowi employees in Scotland, out of nearly 15,000 worldwide.

A slump in output this year due to fish disease, the fallout from Covid-19 and higher costs are being blamed for the gloomier outlook.

The Norway-based firm issued a half year update for investors, showing the company has been affected by the closure of restaurants and catering due to the coronavirus crisis around the world.

However, retail sales have been strong during the second quarter period as consumers stayed at home and cooked their own meals.

The company said: "Sales of pre-packed products have been strong, and retailers have also sold increasing volumes through e-commerce, home delivery and in store pick-up."

image captionFarmed salmon has become one of the UK's biggest food exports

The spot price of benchmark Norwegian salmon has fallen from nearly £8 per kilogram at the start of the year to less than half that level.

That has had less of an effect on Scottish figures, where more than half of production is sold under contract rather than on the spot market.

Disease threat to Scottish stocks

Scottish salmon farming is the company's main source of concern about disease and sea lice, according to Mowi management.

It has told investors to assume Scottish production will be 8,000 tonnes lower than the previous forecast of 67,000 tonnes, mainly due to "biological challenges".

The Scottish industry last year produced 166,000 tonnes.

Earnings per kilo of harvested Scottish salmon fell by nearly two-thirds, comparing the second quarter of 2020 with last year.

Costs of treating disease were up and fish have had to be slaughtered before they reach their optimum size.

Mowi is the owner of the Argyll fish farm where nearly 50,000 salmon escaped when the farm's pens broke free from their moorings in Storm Ellen.

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