Trade status quo 'vital post-Brexit' says visiting Norwegian seafood chief

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 11 Apr 2018

A key trade partner with Grimsby’s seafood cluster has underlined the importance of no Brexit impact on the relationship, explaining how “small interruptions will have huge consequences”.

The free flow of key species – cod, haddock and salmon – is one of the key factors in the post-EU vision for the industry, and representatives from Norway share concerns strongly expressed in the  town.

Hans Frode Kielland Asmyhr is UK director for the Norwegian Seafood Council, and made his first visit to Grimsby Fish Market in the position he took up in September, today.

A former MP back in Scandinavia, the importance of the right terms and a seamless transition post-Brexit was clear, with charges and border inspection post hold-ups a long-standing concernboth sides of the North Sea.

He said: “The UK market is the world’s largest whitefish market and it is also important for salmon of course, because Britons mostly consume salmon, cod and haddock, and they are the species that are big in Norway, that we catch and farm.

“It is one of the most important markets we have and the distance is also short. The British are always positive about Norway and we have a long and stable relationship. 

“Grimsby is very important because of the history behind it, the fish market and also, because of the large industry players. Young’s, Seachill, Morrisons and so on. They are some of the largest buyers of Norwegian fish in the world so it is important to us, for the industry in Norway to support them in the work they do and provide the British public with great fish.

MORE: Grimsby Fish Market in 2018. Our man takes in one of the busiest morning auctions of the year.

“We follow Brexit closely, together with the industry here in the UK. We believe Norway and the UK will keep a good and stable relationship. We don’t want interruption in trading of seafood, be it tariffs or veterinary problems. We don’t want anything of that nature. A small interruption will have huge consequences for the seafood industry.”

A lawyer by profession, Mr Asmyhr, also a former county councillor, was elected to parliament in Akershus, the Oslo hinterland and his home region, in 2005, and was re-elected in 2009, before announcing he would not contest the seat in 2013. 

For one of his terms he served in the Fisheries Committee. As a politician he was a member of the Progress Party and was for Norway joining the EU, but he said the Norwegian Seafood Council had no opinion on the decision of the UK to sever its ties with Brussels. 

Welcomed by Martyn Boyers, chief executive of market operator Grimsby Fish Dock Enterprises, he watched intently as a strong midweek auction unfolded.

“It is very interesting,” he said of the hustle and bustle, taking the time to speak to merchants. “It is important we keep this kind of market. I’ve been to Billingsgate too, and it is a very important part of the industry.”

The stance was welcomed, and follows strong overtones from Iceland on the importance of trade remaining solid and seamless, at October's Humber Seafood Summit.

Supply, marketing and consumption were three key themes discussed on the two hour visit.

Mr Boyers said: “What we are trying to do is open up the opportunity to bring more Norwegian fish to the auction. A lot of Norwegian fish comes direct to Grimsby, we think there is more opportunity to have more on the market. 

"We also covered some of the challenges they face with Brexit, the concern over the outcome, because ultimately Norway and Iceland are trading nations and have great history of trading with the UK and want to continue.”

The 2040 Seafood Vision launched late last year was embraced, with an overriding theme to increase fish in the British diet, a move welcomed by Mr Asmyhr and his team.

Branding was also covered, with Norwegian provenance coveted. “Norway is fundamental to the supply into Grimsby,” Mr Boyers added. “At some point everyone buys Norwegian. It is a country we are comfortable with.

"They have a significant marketing budget for promoting fish and seafood products. Norway is almost a brand in itself, put Norwegian before haddock, and it is regarded as better. They also have skrei (cod seen in its prime as it seasonally migrates), which can attract a premium price."

Cluster enthused after 'home' meeting with Norwegian Seafood Council director after Bergen conference

Seafood Grimsby and Humber cluster representative Simon Dwyer is enthused following his latest meeting with Mr Asmyhr, with proposals for work with his Norwegian counterparts on lobbying for such smooth passage post-Brexit.

The pair met in Bergen last month when the director played a part in the UK-organised Brexit workshop at North Atlantic Seafood Forum.Mr Dwyer, the UK representative for the annual event in Norway’s picturesque port city, said: “We met in Bergen, he had been part of the Brexit workshop, and it was fortuitous he came up as a follow-on to our meeting with Sarah Gillett, the UK Ambassador to Norway. We were able to pick up on that, and we have suggested that we try and do some joint initiatives linked to Brexit and future logistics links, and we delved into that quite a lot. 

“We talked about the importance of Norwegian supply in to Grimsby, with most of the chilled coming overland and most of the frozen into Grimsby via vessel. We also talked about the importance of engaging with Seafish on initiatives such as logistics. 

 “I think we will be forging a close affiliation with Norway in terms of Brexit trade and logistics. These trucks coming down over four or five days are going through various countries – Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, France and then into the UK, and it is a concern.”

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