Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Questions (994)

Pádraig MacLochlainn


994. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will amend the Covid-19 aquaculture support scheme to include those recent entrants to the industry with sales on their books from 2020 and who have been seriously financially affected by the global pandemic; and if he will engage with an association (details supplied) and other representative bodies in relation to the way the scheme can be improved and reintroduced in 2021. [6590/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic, Government has made available financial and other supports for employees and businesses negatively impacted by the Pandemic. Both the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and Employment Wage Subsidy Schemes have supported the incomes of employees and the self-employed in our seafood sector and I am aware that many aquaculture enterprises have availed of these Government payments during periods of market disruption. Government has also made available low-cost loans to seafood businesses for working capital and other purposes.

My Department's €240 million European Maritime and Fisheries Fund Programme 2014-2020 provides public funding for the sustainable development of our aquaculture sector, including supports for capital investment, innovation and professional advisory services. Take-up of these grants has remained strong throughout the Pandemic.

On 22 October 2020, I announced a COVID-19 Aquaculture Support Scheme under my Department's EMFF Programme, designed to compensate oyster and rope mussel producers for lost sales arising from the Covid-19 Pandemic. The Scheme closed in November, with 181 aquaculture enterprises applying. Payments ranged from €6,800 to €16,300 for oyster producers and, for rope mussel producers, €1,300 to €9,000. In line with the EMFF Regulation, the Scheme was designed to compensate producers for the reduction in sales in 2020 compared to previous years, caused by the Covid-19 Pandemic, and therefore was only available to producers with at least some level of production in previous years that could serve to establish which payment band they would qualify for.

As the Pandemic continues, and its impacts on markets continue to evolve and change, I am keeping the situation under review, in the context of the range of Government horizontal supports that continue to be available. My Department and its agencies maintain regular contacts with the IFA on this and other matters concerning the aquaculture sector.