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Industry Short Changed and Bewildered

The approval by the EU Commission of the Brexit Adjustment Reserve funding has been welcomed, but the announcement has left industry short changed and bewildered as to the recommendations of the Seafood Taskforce, as the funding level is much less than what was recommended by the group.

The European Commission approved, under EU State aid rules, a €45 million Irish scheme to support the fish-processing sector affected by the effects of the withdrawal of the UK from the EU.

The scheme will run until 31 December 2023. The beneficiaries are small and medium-sized enterprises active in the processing and preserving of fish, crustaceans and molluscs. The aim of the measure is to support these companies in improving their manufacturing processes, providing a stimulus to optimise the use of raw material inputs and add greater value to outputs, thereby helping reduce commodity exports. The measure is planned to be financed under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve ('BAR'), established to mitigate the economic and social impact of Brexit, subject to approval under the specific provisions governing funding from that instrument.

The Commission has assessed the scheme under Article 107(3)(c) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which allows Member States to support the development of certain economic activities or regions under certain conditions, and in particular the Guidelines for the examination of State aid to the fishery and aquaculture sector. The Commission found that the scheme will enhance the sustainability of the fishery-processing sector and its ability to adapt to new fishing and market opportunities post-Brexit. It also found that the scheme facilitates the development of an economic activity and does not adversely affect trading conditions to an extent contrary to the common interest.

Speaking to te Marine Times, Brenadan Byrne of the IFPEA said that; “In the Seafood Taskforce identified initiatives, it was recommended that €90 million be earmarked for the processing sector, this announcement falls well short of the expectation, but we will await clarification from the department on what has caused the 50% cut in potential funding for the sector. We did get a commitment from the Minister that the recommendations of the taskforce would be recommended in full, the confirmation by the EU Commission of half the funding levels seriously calls into question that commitment.

“In addition, due to the delays with department seeking EU Commission approval for this funding and the sunset clause of 31/12/2023 is attached to this scheme, whereby all works must be completed by that date - it will be necessary to seek additional time to complete works due to time constraints , notwithstanding the fact of supply constraints and current labour shortages.

“The approval by the EU Commission of this scheme leaves more questions unanswered than answered and most of them need to be directed at our own Department of Marine – the EU only approved what was sought by our own Government.”