Thursday, 22 September 2022
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
337. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he has plans for a capital investment programme for non-SME fish processors similar to the scheme that he implemented for beef and dairy processing sectors in 2021 (details supplied); if his attention has been drawn to the fact that considerable employment potential exists in this sector if Government supports are provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46501/22]
In recognising the important contribution of the Seafood Processing sector to job creation and economic growth in our coastal communities, I was pleased to announce the €45 million Brexit Seafood Processing Support Scheme on 12 May of this year. The scheme delivers on a recommendation of the Seafood Taskforce and offers grant rates of between 30% and 50% for capital investment in SME seafood processing enterprises, varying depending on the degree of value added in the project.
The scheme is designed to counter the adverse consequences of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. It seeks to support the processing sector to engage in transformational change, mitigating the effects of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement and Brexit. It also seeks to build more environmentally friendly, sustainable and competitive enterprises which serve the EU and wider global markets, create higher levels of employment more locally, and make better and more sustainable use of Irish landed or imported raw material. The scheme is aimed at supporting industry-led transformative capital investments that enable the sector to focus on 'creating more from less' in the wake of reduced supply of raw material. It is also aimed at moving enterprises in the sector further up the supply chain to produce higher value products and shift the industry to a focus on secondary processing and beyond to products targeting end-user markets. The scheme is proposed for funding under the EU Brexit Adjustment Reserve.
The scheme received State Aid clearance on the basis that it provides supports to SMEs only. This is in line with the European Commission’s State Aid Guidelines which require consistency with the provisions of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund Regulation (508/2014), which in turn restricts grant aid to the processing sector to SMEs only. Both article 69 of the EMFF Regulation for the 2014-20 period and article 28 of the new European Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund Regulation (2021/1139) for the 2021-27 period restrict grant supports for capital investment in seafood processing to SMEs. Under the EU funds available for seafood development, supports to non-SMEs is permitted only through financial instruments.
The schemes, referenced by the Deputy, provided for the beef and dairy processing sector were operated by Enterprise Ireland an agency of the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment. Any future Enterprise Ireland schemes are a matter for An Tánaiste ,in his capacity as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. My officials will provide any assistance possible to both Enterprise Ireland or the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment on any future scheme development.