HMRC figures for Scottish salmon exports to the EU in January are “very, very wrong”, according to an industry body.
The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) said the Treasury figures for January underestimated exports by much as 97%, making it “impossible” to judge the impact of Brexit.
The SSPO told Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee it believed more salmon had been exported than in January last year.
New post-Brexit rules came into force on January 1 with red tape causing delays for some in the seafood sector who usually export to Europe.
Hamish MacDonnell, director of strategic engagement at the SSPO, told MPs on the committee the HMRC figures were “not just wrong, they were very, very wrong”.
He said: “It is really difficult for you as a committee, or anybody else, to really assess the impact of Brexit when we don’t have a proper baseline on the stats.
“We sent about 5,000 tonnes of salmon to Europe in January – the Eurostat system, which records how much Scottish salmon went into the EU, records about 4,700 tonnes going in.
“The HMRC figures say we only sent 80 tonnes – which is only 3% of the amount that actually went there.”
Mr MacDonnell said he was unsure where or how the error was made but discussions with HMRC were ongoing.
Scotland Office minister David Duguid and government official Nick Leake appeared on another panel of the Scottish Affairs Committee on Thursday.
Committee chairman Pete Wishart asked if the minister would be “rushing off to your colleagues in the Treasury to try and ensure this is going to get resolved”.
Mr Duguid said he became aware at the same time as the SSPO and an investigation was continuing within HMRC.
Mr Leake said “provisional figures” were always published which were subject to revision, while the SSPO had raised a “trade challenge” which leads to an investigation.
He said: “I do accept that in this case this is a significant revision that would need to be made.
“But this is a standard process so I’m fairly confident that the correct figures will appear when the final figures are announced.”
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, who is also a member of the committee, said the SSPO’s claim was “incredible”.
He added: “I think it’s a massive bourach, the whole thing is a mess.”
Responding to the claims later on Thursday, an HMRC spokesman said: “We are aware of the Scottish Salmon Producers query on ‘whole, fresh/chilled Atlantic salmon’ exports.
“We carry out monthly quality assurance of the provisional trade data and revisions are made should we identify errors.”