Marks & Spencer said it sells only Scottish farmed salmon, which is trusted by customers for its high quality and taste.
Sourcing 10,000 tonnes of raw material a year, from Scottish Sea Farms, helped create jobs in rural communities where employment opportunities are less readily available, said the retailer.
However, in a written submission to Holyrood’s Rural Economy and Connectivity (REC) committee, which is conducting an inquiry into the salmon farming industry, M&S said it was concerned about recent negative publicity that could damage consumer and investor confidence.
‘It is our view that the future success of the industry is dependent on a positive public perception, so there may be a role for the Scottish government acting as a convenor of stakeholders to help develop lasting solutions to secure the future sustainable development of the industry in Scotland.’
At last Wednesday’s evidence gathering session of the REC committee, the convenor, MSP Edward Mountain, expressed disappointment that the retail sector had not put anyone up in person to answer questions.
In its submission, M&S stressed that it was company policy to ensure that all products containing fish or shellfish, whether wild caught or farmed, are ‘produced using seafood raw materials and ingredients sourced from fisheries and farms that are in line with our requirements, thereby ensuring that the products on our shelves pose no integrity risk to our customers or to the M&S brand’.
Its farmed salmon, sold under the Lochmuir brand name, is produced according to the company’s own code of practice.
This is designed to ensure that a range of criteria are met, including traceability, high fish welfare standards, reduction in medicine and antibiotic use, community engagement and support, skills training and development, and continuous innovation.
M&S, which employs approximately 85,000 people worldwide, said it is ‘proud of Lochmuir salmon’.
‘Our customers tell us it’s a great eating experience, gaining their trust through its high quality, sustainability credentials, Scottish provenance and UK sourcing.’
The company said it was aware of the impacts and challenges to the sector and had, through its Lochmuir Code of Practice, ‘endeavoured to mitigate these environmental risks and challenges, where possible’.
‘We do this by building in high standards of fish welfare, environmental and other good management practices into the Code of Practice.
‘However, most of the issues are bigger than our supply chain and require solutions at a national level as well as significant investment from the sector itself.’
The retailer is also concerned about the impacts of climate change and what these may mean for the future of Scottish salmon. It called for further research to understand these risks.
And it questioned the regulatory system which, it said, needed to find a balance that did not stifle industry investment, with the risk of Scotland falling behind competitors such as Norway and Chile.
‘To this end, we wonder whether a review of the planning and farming consent process could be undertaken, to determine the potential to improve efficiencies and costs of production in Scotland, as this might help Scottish salmon farmers to be more globally competitive in the future.’
As far as the market goes, M&S said the weakness of sterling in the past year had helped to drive up the price of Scottish salmon for UK consumers because exports have become more attractive to farmers.
‘We must however be conscious of the industry remaining price competitive so that it satisfies the demand for salmon products from UK customers.’
The REC committee will hear evidence from Scotland’s salmon farmers on Wednesday, May 2, and the from the Rural Economy and Connectivity minister, Fergus Ewing, on May 9. It will then consider all evidence before writing its recommendations.