Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Questions (1020)

Michael Healy-Rae


1020. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if the refusal of Covid-19 assistance for shellfish operators (details supplied) will be examined; if funding will be expedited for the sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8408/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

My Department's European Maritime and Fisheries Fund Programme 2014-2020 provides financial supports for the sustainable development of our seafood sector. On 22 October 2020, I announced a COVID-19 Aquaculture Support Scheme under the 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.

The terms and conditions of the Scheme provided that it was available only to those operators who were compliant with certain legal obligations that apply to all aquaculture producers, namely compliance with their aquaculture and foreshore licences and with the requirement in law to submit returns to Bord Iascaigh Mhara of the Aquaculture Production and Employment Survey. It is an offence to fail to comply with this requirement to submit the survey. The Scheme required that applicants must have complied for each of the three previous years, unless they were a recent entrant to the sector who would not have been in production for those three years.

Other supports to aquaculture producers under the EMFF Programme, including for capital investment, innovation, professional advisory services and organic certification have continued to be available throughout the Pandemic and demand from producers for these grants has remained strong.

As the Pandemic continues and its impacts on markets continue to evolve and change, I am keeping the range of supports under review, in the context of the suite of Government horizontal supports that continue to be available.