IFA Aquaculture officers from the fish and shellfish farming sectors have met with the new Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, to discuss issues affecting their sectors.
Chairman of the Irish Shellfish Association, Michael Mulloy, and chairman of the Irish Salmon Growers’ Association, Damien O’Keefe, pressed the minister on the urgent need for a licencing system that was ‘fit-for-purpose’ to meet highest environmental standards, and customer requirements for greater supply of top quality Irish seafood.
The national policy document, Foodwise 2025, commits to expanding the industry and to reviewing licencing. The industry is currently worth €149m at primary production level and supports 2.3 jobs in the wider community for every on-farm employee. The industry currently employs 1,841 around the coast and in freshwater facilities inland.
In response, Minister Creed gave an “unequivocal commitment” to an independent review that would commence “in the next few months”. IFA assured the Minister of the industry’s co-operation and full input into the process while pointing out that the original deadline set down in the Government policy document had been missed, and that time was of the essence.
The industry is looking for closer attention to the business aspects of farming, without losing sight of the necessary regulatory controls, but says the current licencing system is too rigid to allow farmers to adapt to changing markets and physical environments and does not take into account the major technological progress across all sectors in the last 20 years.
The IFA team stressed that nothing should impede the current process of dealing with long-outstanding licence applications around the country, saying that applicants who have waited for up to eight years in some cases must have their renewals processed urgently in order to make investments, access grant aid and have some security of tenure.