Fish producers are pressing the UK Government to use mackerel as food aid for poorer nations during the Russian trade embargo.

Producers' organisations have presented a case to ministers arguing the UK should use the fish to help . They say it would be better than complicated financial transactions in some countries which can lack transparency.

This follows the ban implemented by Russia in retaliation for US sanctions after pro-Russian forces shot down a Malaysian Airlines passenger plane in eastern Ukraine.

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Ian McFadden, chairman of the Scottish Pelagic Processors Association, said the country's industry had exported around 10,500 tonnes of mackerel to Russia worth around £17 million this year before the embargo was introduced. "It is probably 17 per cent to 20 per cent of the primary pelagic processors' turnover."

He said mackerel supported around 920 jobs ashore. The season only lasted around 12 weeks in a year with six weeks in January and February and another six in September and October.

Mr McFadden added: "There are quite a lot of mackerel still to come. On top of that, our quotas have jumped to almost double in recent years. Selling double the amount wouldn't have been easy in any case, but now to lose a significant part of the market it is even more difficult."

The Government was looking at an export insurance scheme which could help in other markets such as Ukraine where there had been fear of non-payment. The scheme was expected to be launched at the end of next week, he said. Meanwhile Nigeria was also opening up again with established importers getting their licences back, but the Faroe Islands were active there.

Norway was also presenting stiff competition, but the Far East had some potential. Mr McFadden added: "Rather than giving money to dubious characters in some countries, we should give food aid either frozen or canned pelagic fish such as mackerel. We have a large canning facility in the north-east of Scotland. The canned product does not need refrigeration. It can be stored. You can keep mackerel in cans for years.

"The UK Government gives aid to many Third World countries and some people here sometimes scratch their heads as to what happens to it. It would be better if it went as food aid to the people who so desperately need it."

The Department for International Development is considering the representations.