Exports of fresh Scottish salmon have leapt to record levels for the second consecutive year, according to new official figures.
Emerging and well-established markets helped boost exports by 22 per cent, rising to 95,638 tonnes in 2011 from 78,611 tonnes the previous year. Seven of the top ten markets have grown in volume and fresh Scottish salmon now reaches 64 countries worldwide.
North America has taken over as the main export market for the first time, rising 35 per cent during the last year to 44,454 tonnes. Despite the continuing economic uncertainty, Europe has performed strongly as it imported almost the identical volume as the previous year (39,979 tonnes). Emerging markets have seen the most striking increases; the Far East has risen from 682 tonnes to 6,779 tonnes, a leap of 894 per cent; the Middle East has risen from 1,340 tonnes to 1,562 tonnes, a jump of 17 per cent.
The new figures are revealed as the sector targets further export growth at the world's largest seafood show this week (24th - 26th April). Held in Brussels, the European Seafood Exposition (ESE) is forecast to attract over 24,000 visitors from 80 countries.
Seventeen seafood companies are to exhibit on the 705 square metre Scottish Pavilion, which is organised by Scottish Development International (SDI) and supported by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, to promote the vision of Scotland as a 'Land of Food and Drink'. A host of other Scottish-based companies will exhibit at the show independently.
Scott Landsburgh, Chief Executive, Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation (SSPO), said: "Exports of fresh Scottish salmon have increased five out of the last six years and have almost doubled over the last decade. With both Scottish salmon exports and global demand for Atlantic salmon at an all-time high, the sector is a major player in the export-led recovery.
"We have worked with the Scottish Government to ensure the sustainable development of production over recent years and the early results are demonstrated in these encouraging figures. We must continue to work collaboratively to ensure continued confidence and avoid any unintended consequences in the proposed Aquaculture and Fisheries Bill as this would jeopardise further investment and job creation," he added.
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment Richard Lochhead said: "Scotland produces high quality and delicious farmed salmon and these figures show that global demand for healthy salmon is continuing to grow. And as sales increase, companies can boost their investment and employment here in Scotland, particularly in coastal communities in the Highlands and Islands.
"The huge popularity surge from emerging markets in the Far East demonstrates the untapped opportunities for continued growth in Scottish salmon exports. Our salmon is rapidly becoming the product of choice in the high-end sushi and sashimi markets, underlining its premium quality and taste."
Iain Sutherland, senior key industries manager, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said: "HIE is working with ambitious businesses across the Highlands and Islands to support their growth in the international arena. Scottish salmon, exported from some of our most remote and rural locations in the Highlands and Islands, is celebrated across the world. As our largest food export its outstanding success can be attributed to its exceptional quality which bears testament to the skill, hard work and experience of the generations of men and women working in this industry."
Anne MacColl, Chief Executive, Scottish Development International, said: "Scotland's food and drink exports are at an all-time high right now and these salmon figures are further testament to Scotland's growing international reputation as a world-leader in the manufacture of premium quality food and drink products.
"These results also highlight some important changes in the patterns of international trade in terms of which markets offer the most opportunities for Scottish companies. It's vital that home-grown food and drink companies broaden their horizons and take advantage of these new market developments to help realise their own growth potential. And that's where SDI comes in - by working collaboratively with Scotland Food and Drink and industry, we believe we can further boost international salmon exports and in doing so, deliver long-term sustainable growth for Scotland's economy."