‘Give us help’ Rishi Sunak urged to back shellfish sector as EU continues to block exports

Oyster farmer calls for more financial support from government

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The Chancellor has been called on to take action to support coastal communities and businesses hard hit by the European Union’s blanket ban on shellfish from the UK. Rishi Sunak is due to outline his economic support measures later in the week as the Government look to finance a route out of the pandemic. Now fisheries and oyster farms are voicing concerns not enough support will be offered to support those unable to sell their either products into the EU or to the still dormant British restaurant trade. 

Asked about his message to Mr Sunak, oysterman James Green told BBC Politics: “Give us some help to get the shellfish aquaculture industry through this export crisis.

“Otherwise, in the near future, there won’t be one.”

Mr Green said the combination of the Covid crisis and the challenges brought in by the new Brexit trade deal with the EU hit the shellfish industry hard.

He continued: “It has been tough, you know, obviously there’s Covid at the beginning of the year.

“Which affected us, the restaurant side of the business, and the oyster sales. We were upon over the summer, we were busy, like a lot of coastal places. Then we shut again in November.”

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He continued: “For the other side of the business, the impact of Brexit has probably had more of an effect then Covid I would say.

“We’ve got a business profile that was based on advice given to us by Defra over the past three years, which always assured us that the bulk wholesale to France could go ahead.

“You know, two weeks ago, they informed us in actual fact we can’t do that now.

“So now I’ve got 100 tonnes of oysters sitting on the farm that I cannot sell into France and I can’t sell domestically.”

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Mr Sunak is delivering his budget on Wednesday and will announce the £5 billion rescue package for businesses as part of a wider investment strategy.

The Chancellor is also set to announce he will put billions of pounds into the UK Infrastructure Bank to invest in major projects around the country.

Another £375 million will be made available as a “Future Fund” for high-growth businesses.

The £5 billion fund for Restart Grants is aimed at the thousands of businesses including pubs, restaurants, clubs, hotels, gyms, shops and salons which have been hardest hit by the pandemic and lockdown.

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It is thought that 700,000 companies will be eligible, and it means that £25 billion will have been given in direct grants.

Mr Sunak said: “Our local businesses have been hit hard by the pandemic – which is why we went big and went early with a multi-billion pound package of support.

“There’s now light at the end of the tunnel and this £5bn of extra cash grants will ensure our high street can open their doors with optimism.”

Under the  Restart Grants scheme, non-essential retail businesses will get up to £6,000 per premises to help them reopen and start trading safely.

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