Thursday, 16 November 2023
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
200. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he and his Department are aware of the current livelihood-threatening market disturbance to the brown crab (cancer pagurus) fishery, whereby processors are now not taking any landed produce due to there being no buyers for export live or otherwise; what measures can be taken to identify new markets; what immediate supporting interventions can be made to support the industry during this current market volatility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50299/23]
The brown crab fishery is of particular importance and value to the inshore sector. I am cognisant of the challenges impacting the fishery and the prevailing difficult market conditions as a result of wider market issues in Europe and beyond due to the rising cost of living and its impact on consumer spending habits.
Irish crab exports were valued at €47 million in 2022 with France, Spain and China amongst the main markets for this product. However, I am aware that the demand for high value crab and shellfish is impacted this year due to the higher cost of living and processors are reporting challenging conditions across markets. I am informed that the continuing cost of living crisis in Europe is starting to impact the processed brown crab market with processors unable to continue to accumulate stock without a market outlet. The Chinese market for processed crab is also experiencing difficulties with processors noting excess stock and competition from lower priced snow crab entering the market.
I can advise the Deputy that Bord Bia, which has responsibility for the promotion and marketing of Irish food, works closely with key crab producers to promote Irish brown crab in both the domestic and international markets. I announced a Brexit Inshore Marketing Scheme in March 2022 to assist the inshore fisheries sector to mitigate the impacts of Brexit by growing value in existing markets and developing new markets. As part of this Scheme, Bord Bia implemented a marketing plan for supporting the sales and promotion of inshore species including all varieties of Irish crab, lobster, whelk, inshore herring, mackerel, hake and pollock. The valuable work on this dedicated inshore marketing scheme continued during 2023.
The short chain of locally caught and consumed seafood products is encouraged and promoted where possible also. Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s seafood development agency, has supported a number of such projects and continues to assess how supports can be designed so that appropriate groups or organisations can seek assistance for a range of initiatives.
I am alert to the need for ongoing support and development of the inshore sector. The Brexit Inshore Fisheries Business Model Adjustment Schemes in 2022 and 2023 aimed to support inshore fishers in dealing with the difficult trading conditions that have arisen due to Brexit. BIM provided dedicated online training modules to participants and grant aid to help put into practice the learning from these modules and assist fishers adapt their operations to reduce costs, improve product quality and reach new customers.
I also announced a wider package of supports and development strategies which include investing in the development of marine infrastructure and in all elements of the seafood supply chain. The €45 million Brexit Processing Capital Support Scheme is seeing large investments made in Ireland’s seafood processing sector to allow such enterprises to expand, focus on higher value-added output and in exploring new market opportunities, which may present new channels for output for the inshore sector.
In addition, following the closure of the schemes funded under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve, work is now underway to develop new schemes for the sector, funded under Ireland’s European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) Seafood Development Programme. The €258 million programme will provide a wide range of supports for fishers and the wider development of the seafood sector. Inshore representatives form part of the monitoring committee for this programme and will have the opportunity to input into the development of schemes to support the sector.
With the assistance of my Department, the National Inshore Fishermen’s Association (NIFA) achieved recognition as an EU Producer Organisation and joined the Irish Islands Marine Resource Organisation (IIMRO) in representing the inshore sector. These organisations, through the implementation of Production and Marketing Plans, will help to develop opportunities for their members. Both of these organisations are eligible for funding under the EMFAF programme to assist in the achievement of their aims.
I can also advise the Deputy of my participation in an ongoing programme of trade missions and promotional activities to enhance the continuing efforts of Bord Bia and industry in marketing Ireland's high quality and sustainable seafood and agri-food produce in key priority markets such as China, South East Asia and West Africa and to a number of key European markets all of which are priority growth targets for Ireland’s seafood and agri-food export sectors.