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Shellfish industry’s Brexit fears

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JERSEY’S historic oyster-growing industry could be decimated by Brexit, a third-generation shellfish farmer has said.

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Chris Le Masurier, owner of Jersey Oyster Company, said his industry looked like it would be the hardest hit, as tighter border controls and trade tariffs threaten to disrupt exports to Europe.

He said: ‘I’ve built Jersey Oyster up over the last 20 years. We’ve had issues in the past with France and Customs and we’ve built up a freight link with Granville for our shellfish and other products and worked hard at that for the last 20 years.

'Now, because of something we didn’t even get to vote for, and which we’re told we are not allowed to negotiate directly about, we are in limbo. It’s unbelievable.’

Jersey Oyster is the largest oyster-growing business in Great Britain, exporting 700 tonnes of live oysters to France and the UK each year. It is one of several companies in the Island, with around 80 to 90% of exports going to France and Europe.

Once Britain has split from the EU, border controls will be brought in to prevent unfettered access to Europe. This will mean tariffs and health certificates will be needed for live animals.

To prepare for this, St Malo is providing an extra border inspection post. However, Mr Le Masurier said that even that was going to be problematic for his business.

He added: ‘We normally land our shellfish in Granville. We are going to have to go to St Malo, which will take longer to get there for our freight boat and so we are having to change the propulsion systems on it in anticipation of it. It’s a three-month lead-in time to order these parts and while a lot of people are happy to wait until the last day and last hour, I can’t do that as a business.

‘I’ve had to throw money at this and it just seems that we are the only industry that is being affected. We are going to struggle to export stuff through St Malo.’

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Jersey’s shellfish could also be rendered uncompetitive due to the tariffs and other costs that will come into force.

‘St Malo won’t give us any costings yet as to how much it will be to land it,’ Mr Le Masurier said. ‘It’s going to be like a monopoly. They know we haven’t got an option. And our customers are not going to accept paying tariffs. It’s such a competitive market into mainland Europe.’

Mr Le Masurier said there was a lack of awareness on the part of the UK with regards to Jersey’s shellfish industry.

‘Jersey Oyster Company grows more oysters than England, Scotland and Wales put together, so that’s why when the UK are negotiating with Europe they’re not even using our statistics as part of it – they are trying to pass it off as it being a small export from the UK.

'It isn’t, but technically Jersey isn’t allowed to submit its own statistics and I don’t know what’s going on there. All we hear from our civil servants is they are working hard, but we don’t get any feedback.’

Gwyn Garfield-Bennett

By Gwyn Garfield-Bennett
Business Editor

Gwyn is a highly experienced journalist having worked in UK national TV for the BBC and ITN, as well as running her own magazine publishing business, freelancing for national newspapers and UK magazines. She has a CIPR Diploma in Public relations, excellent digital skills and is an experienced digital marketing practitioner. Gwyn is also an author of several books.

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