A DEVON seafood firm is to send shellfish more than 8,000 miles to Vietnam for processing because it cannot find enough staff to do the job locally.
The Blue Seafood Company, based in Paignton, near Torquay, and which proudly describes itself as the ‘home of Devon crab’, has said that if the experiment works out, then up to 20 per cent of future production could be carried out in Vietnam.
Blue Seafood is facing the sort of problems affecting fish processing in Scotland – the number of EU workers is falling and people locally do not want the jobs, a problem highlighted in a Seafish employment report last year.
It is not the first and unlikely to be the last seafood processor to send work to the Far East as the number of EU workers thins out in the wake of Brexit.
The business employs about 150 staff, with 60 per cent from the EU, and is currently advertising for ‘production operatives’ on its website.
The company told BBC Inside Out South West that it expects demand for its crabs to increase by almost a third this year, driven by growing demand from China.
Admitting that it was not particularly sexy work, company director Dawn Spence said they had tried hard to recruit local people.
The company is sending frozen crab claws to be processed in Vietnam before returning them to the UK for the European market.
‘In the next 12 months, we should be landing a further thousand tonnes of crab – that means that we need more staff in the factory,’ said Spence.
‘To mitigate that risk of not being able to get those staff, we’ve had to outsource some production to Vietnam.’