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IFA Calls for Support for Aquaculture Sector

by 5m Editor
16 October 2009, at 1:00am

IRELAND - Irish Farmers Association (IFA) Aquaculture has called on local politicians around the Irish coast to support the opening of the Operational Programme for Aquaculture.

The aim, says IFA, is to allow companies continue to provide vital jobs and stay competitive in an EU market where all other member states are actively supporting their fish and shellfish farming industries with financing and licensing.

The Irish aquaculture industry is worth €120 million per annum and provides 2000 vital jobs. In coastal areas, farming of fish and shellfish not only provides direct employment but also ensures a ready supply of raw material to the local seafood processing sector – smoking of salmon, production of fillets for supermarkets, value-added shellfish dishes, etc The industry also provides vital business for companies supplying everything from fuel to IT services, engineering, chandlery, etc.

IFA Aquaculture executive secretary, Richie Flynn said that members were in direct contact with their local public representatives seeking support for the sector.

Mr Flynn said: “Our business is based on a very demanding free market environment where competition on our main markets at home and abroad can come from the EU, Scandinavia, Asia or South America. For the Irish industry to be compete, we must continually improve and adapt our technology and reduce costs. The EU recognised this fact in introducing the European Fisheries Fund (EFF) regulations in 2007. This regulation allows member States to fund capital programmes up to 40 per cent to improve the aquaculture industry’s efficiencies, develop environmental management systems and improve the quality of the final product”

Mr Flynn continued, “Due to internal arguments between Government departments in Dublin, the funding under the European Fisheries Fund regulations has yet to be made available to the Irish industry. This is despite the fact that the Governments in every one of our main competitors in Europe have opened access to funds from the EU and national exchequers to assist their industries under the terms of the EFF. The terms of the EFF run from 2007 to 2013, yet Irish SMEs involved in primary production and processing of farmed fish and shellfish have yet to receive any notification of the opening of the Irish national Operational Programme for Fisheries.”

IFA is asking all public representatives to support the industry by calling on the Minister of State with responsibility for Fisheries, Mr Tony Killeen TD, to immediately open the Operational Programme for Fisheries to allow for funding of the aquaculture sector and restore a level playing pitch for Irish companies to compete fairly in Europe and on the world stage. Minister Killeen must honour the commitments made by Government in signing up to the Cawley Report on the seafood sector in 2007and ensure that in the 2010 Budget there is a sufficient level of at least €10 million earmarked under the co-funded Operational programme for Fisheries to be drawn down in 2010. We are asking all our local public representatives in coastal and rural areas to support our call and to make clear to the Minister that this vital capital grant aid is open for access immediately.”

5m Editor