Seafood sector representatives have said exports have "slowed to a trickle" amid what is described as a Brexit "export crisis".

The introduction of new checks and paperwork since the turn of the year has caused disruption to many millions of pounds worth of exports of fresh fish and seafood to the EU.

Producers have expressed frustration at the lack of UK Government action, while last month seafood hauliers protested against the Brexit fishing deal by stacking lorries in central London.

Now trade representatives have criticised limited access to the Seafood Disruption Support Scheme, which was released on Tuesday by the UK Government, for producers.

Westminster said the fund "will cover up to £100,000 of losses per business caused by delays related to the export of fresh or live fish and shellfish to the EU during January 2021".

However, Donna Fordyce, chief executive of Seafood Scotland, said: "Since 1 January, seafood exports have slowed to a trickle as companies struggle to navigate systems that are not fit for purpose, being tested in real time, and are creating an intractable barrier to trade.

"Some companies have even given up trying and have put their businesses on ice for the time being, at great financial suffering to their owners, staff, families, and communities."

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Ms Fordyce continued: “We hoped the £23m would go some way to alleviating the pressure, while the existing problems could be resolved. However, the initial industry feedback today is one of disappointment, with many companies instantly realising they will be ineligible for support.

"This includes companies that have simply had to stop trying because their product has not been getting through. Or, seafood businesses whose long-standing orders from customers in the EU have dried up because of the export crisis."

She said: "Companies cannot produce health certificates and other documentation for orders never made because of a lack of customer confidence that product would reach the EU on time, and in peak condition.

“It’s probable that these companies will never be fully compensated for what they have lost and are still losing, but the damage could still be limited if the systems were workable and export gets back on track quickly.”

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