First Minister Alex Salmond today welcomed Marine Harvest's plan to invest around £80 million to grow its business and support jobs in rural communities, as he met the chair of the Norwegian-based company in Oslo to discuss its new 'five-year' plan for Scotland.
Marine Harvest, which operates 38 fish farms in Scotland supporting around 460 jobs, is the world's largest producer of farmed salmon, operating in 22 countries. Its Scottish business unit was highlighted as the company's best-performing in 2011, with high production, good price achievement and good operational performance.
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Scotland is currently the largest producer of farmed Atlantic salmon in the European Union and third largest globally, accounting for more than one-third, by value, of Scotland's food exports.
Ole-Eirik Leroy, Chairman of the Marine Harvest Board, today revealed that the company has plans for an £80 million capital investment in Scotland between 2012 to 2016.
Following the meeting, the First Minister said:
"The Scottish Government is determined to support a vibrant, sustainable salmon farming industry, which already employs more than 2,100 people in Scotland directly, with many more indirect jobs supported, particularly in rural communities in the West Highlands, Western and Northern Isles.
"Scottish salmon now accounts for more than a third of the value of our national food exports - reflecting the premium that discerning consumers place on Scottish salmon, including in expanding markets such as China, where we were able to secure agreement with the Government in Beijing to enable direct exports to the country last year.
"Fresh farmed salmon sales in the Far East soared nearly 900 per cent last year to a record 6,779 tonnes - demonstrating the growing demand for Scottish seafood from new marketplaces.
"I was pleased to hear first hand about Marine Harvest's plans for their operations in Scotland and delighted by their latest investment commitment that will benefit local communities. Clearly they are set to play a key role in our ambitions for growth in the industry, including our aim of increasing production by 50 per cent on 2009 levels to 210,000 tonnes by 2020."
Mr Leroy added:
"We are committed to farming in Scotland, where the results show that top quality salmon is in demand increasingly around the world. With people eating more salmon and the need to sustainably increase our production, we believe that further investment in Scotland is good for our business and the Scottish economy, the communities where we operate and our consumers. Because of this we are looking at investment plans for Scotland in the region of £80 million between 2012 and 2016 that could create around 100 jobs.
"By 2050 there will be 9 billion people on the planet and that farming the sea is the best way to provide additional protein. Scotland is uniquely well placed to be the salmon farming leader in the EU as its salmon farming industry is truly world class."
Anne MacColl, chief executive, Scottish Development International, said:
"The decision by Marine Harvest to commit to a five-year investment plan in Scottish rural communities is testament to the international reputation Scotland currently has in the sustainable salmon farming industry. We look forward to continuing to work with the company both in Scotland and in Norway in the future, helping to increase our overall production of salmon and in doing so, drive growth back into the Scottish economy."
Images of the First Minister's visit to Norway are available on the Scottish Government's flickr site.
In 2009 Marine Harvest announced plans to increase annual production from 40,000 tonnes to 60,000 tonnes. Investment in new sea farms and a new hatchery are currently underway to achieve this 50 per cent increase in tonnage by 2016.
Marine Harvest has recently opened two new sites in the Western Isles on Barra and South Uist, employing 11 staff in total. Work on a new £15 million re-circulation hatchery at Lochailort began just recently with the opening planned for Spring 2013. The new Lochailort hatchery will produce five million salmon smolts.
In April, the Scottish Government announced a £240,000 grant to support a range of initiatives to target new markets. That funding, together with funds from Scottish Development International, Seafood Scotland, Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation, Scottish Quality Salmon and Seafish, will see a total of £480,000 of invested in the international push to promote Scottish salmon.