My Department is the competent authority under the EU Common Market Organisation Regulation (1379/2013) for recognition of fisheries and aquaculture producer groups as EU Producer Organisations. In 2020, my Department published new national Recognition Criteria under the CMO to be satisfied by applicants for recognition. In line with the commitments in our Programme for Government to facilitate formation of Producer Organisations in the inshore fisheries sector, the new Recognition Criteria were introduced to make it easier for inshore fisheries producer groups to achieve recognition as a PO. Producer Organisation status has many advantages, including better negotiating strength in the market for producers, financial supports under my Department’s European Maritime and Fisheries Fund Programme and certain protections under EU competition law.
In 2020, my Department received an application from the group named. The CMO Regulation provides for a timeframe of three months within which to determine an application for recognition, subject to receipt of all necessary information. On 15 July 2020, my Department wrote to the group named requesting additional information to assist in consideration of their application. They responded on some of the issues concerned, but a response is awaited on some others. These relate to organisational and procedural matters. Pending receipt of that information, consideration of the application is paused. My officials have discussed the status of the application with the group on a number of occasions and remain available to provide any additional guidance needed.
In line with the Programme for Government commitments, I also introduced new financial supports in 2020 under my Department’s EMFF Programme, making available to producer groups seeking recognition grants for IT equipment, office furniture, legal, accountancy and other relevant professional advice, website development costs and costs of room hire etc.