Aquaculture — [Sir David Amess in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:18 pm on 17th July 2019.

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Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 4:18 pm, 17th July 2019

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David. I am grateful to my hon. Friend Stephen Kerr for securing this debate on such an important subject. I am excited to have so many Conservative colleagues from north of the border shining a bright light on the failures of the SNP Government there.

Aquaculture is a critical part of the UK’s food industry. As we have heard, the value of the UK’s aquaculture produce is over £1 billion and the industry employs over 3,000 people. Before I respond in full to the debate, I note that policy on the aquaculture sector is, and will remain, devolved to the four UK fisheries administrations. I use the word sector with a proviso: just as with fishing, I take the view that when we talk about the sector, we actually mean sectors. Aquaculture is rich and diverse, comprising a range of activities. In the UK as a whole, this ranges from farmed salmon—Scotland’s largest non-liquid export—through rainbow and brown trout to the cultivation of marine shellfish such as oysters and mussels, and more exotic species such as king prawns, with which I know there are exciting developments in my hon. Friend’s constituency. Stirling is clearly already at the cutting edge of technology in this area.

I am acutely aware of the key contribution that aquaculture specifically makes to the Scottish economy; it had a sales value of £765 million in 2016 and employs more than 2,000 people. Of course, it is not just those people directly employed in aquaculture who depend on it. The wider impacts across the supply chain are estimated to be around £620 million in gross value added and 12,000 jobs. The value of aquaculture produce also extends beyond Scotland. According to Seafish figures, its value in the rest of the UK is likely to be around £100 million in revenue and 1,700 jobs.

Aquaculture is a sector with a bright future. Global production, as we have heard, has been growing by nearly 7% per year and it is making an increasingly important contribution to global food security. Overall UK production has risen more rapidly. The biggest percentage growth is in Northern Ireland, as I am sure Jim Shannon will be pleased to know, but the largest growth by volume is in Scotland. We recognise that the Scotland is currently leading the way in UK aquaculture, and I hear what my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling says about sharing out the budget proportionally. He makes a good case. England has set out its the aquaculture growth opportunities in “Seafood 2040”. I encourage the Seafood 2040 Aquaculture Leadership Group to engage with Scottish counterparts to seek opportunities for learning and working together.