Stay aligned with EU – it’s our best market, say shellfish firms
THE EU remains the best export market for Jersey’s fisheries, according to industry figures who have joined calls for the Island to consider closer alignment with the continent, rather than the UK, post-Brexit.
Last week, dairy farmer Andrew Le Gallais raised concerns that his sector may struggle to export Jersey milk and other produce to places such as the Far East if it loses the ability to market itself with a high-quality EU standard.
And Mr Le Gallais said that at some stage Jersey may need to use the autonomy it has from the UK to align itself more closely with EU standards, particularly if British goods become increasingly de-regulated and quality drops.
Now, Chris Le Masurier, of the Jersey Oyster Company, and Nathalie Porritt of Aqua-Mar, have echoed his concerns, pointing out that their businesses may be unable to continue exporting to the EU market, if regulatory standards are not maintained.
The Jersey Oyster Company exports more than 700 tonnes of oysters to France each year along with several tonnes of mussels, while Aqua-Mar Fisheries exports around 250 tonnes of shellfish to the continent annually.
Mr Le Masurier said that he had investigated exporting to other parts of the world because of Brexit but had determined that France was the best market for his business in a number of ways.
‘About 70% to 80% of our exports go to Europe and we will have to keep ourselves aligned to their standards if we want to keep that market open. And it’s the same for the fishing industry as well,’ he said.
‘The Jersey Oyster Company grows more oysters than England, Scotland and Wales put together, so for the UK our industry is not particularly important and you have to wonder if they are going to represent our interests.
‘I know that there are people in Jersey who are taking the same line as the UK and saying we should look at places further afield and sell products there. But we have looked at that.
‘We sell landed produce in France and we get a better price there than we would in America. And that’s before you have the transport costs.
‘And in America they have very large-scale oyster farms, although the quality is not very high. So, it would be very difficult to sell our product there because they compete on price not quality.’
Mr Le Masurier continued: ‘We have spent a lot of time building our reputation and business in France and now, because of a decision that we didn’t even get a vote in, there is real uncertainty.
'Over in France they view Britain as a laughing stock nowadays. So, we are going to have to keep our high standards to keep access to Europe. It’s a question of what degree of control we have over ourselves and what degree of control the UK has.
'But, being a small Crown Dependency, we are very much at the bottom of the UK’s priority list.’
He added that agriculture and fisheries businesses in the UK would be getting funding of more than £15 million to support them during the Brexit process while Jersey businesses would not be getting anything.
Miss Porritt said that she ‘100% agreed’ with Mr Le Masurier’s views because her business is hugely reliant on exports to the EU.
‘I would go along with what Chris has said. All of our exports go to Europe and we need to stay aligned with them,’ she said.
‘If Brexit does happen then it’s unknown what will happen and it would be good to have the certainty that if there is a day one no-deal that we are still aligned with the EU.’
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