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Sales of oysters in Ireland plunged by 59% during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: BIM.
Sales of oysters in Ireland plunged by 59% during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: BIM.

Shellfish farmers in Ireland hit by a huge drop in demand caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have been thrown a lifeline by the country’s farming, food and marine minister, Charlie McConalogue.

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The minister has announced a financial support scheme for rope mussel and oyster farmers funded under his department’s European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) programme, which is co-funded by the government and the EU.

McConalogue announced the scheme when taking part in the virtual AGM of the Irish Farmers’ Association’s aquaculture division (IFA Aquaculture) yesterday.

59% fall in oyster sales 

IFA Aquaculture has spent months urging politicians to use EMFF money to help the industry, and particularly shellfish farmers who were most vulnerable to the pandemic’s impact on the food service industry.

McConalogue said rope mussel farmers had suffered a 34% fall in sales between February and June, while oyster farmers suffered a sales drop of 59%.

“The continued viability of these SME enterprises is jeopardised by these unprecedented shocks to their businesses, with many struggling to cover their fixed costs and to fund the cost of purchasing seed to grow their next crops,” said the minister.

“I am announcing today a special support scheme for these oyster and rope mussel producers that will provide a fixed, one-off payment of between €6,800 and €16,300 to each eligible oyster farming business and between €1,300 and €9,000 for rope mussel producers.”

Payment this year

The payments will vary according to three size classes based on records of previous production levels held by Ireland’s seafood development agency, Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM). 

“I anticipate that BIM will be inviting applications in early November with a view to paying successful applicants in 2020,” said McConalogue.

IFA Aquaculture chairman Michael Mulloy said: “The impact of the Covid-19 crisis has been significant on the Irish aquaculture sector. Shellfish have been particularly affected due to face market uncertainty. 

“IFA Aquaculture lobbied at EU level for amendments to rules for the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), introduced in April 2020. We welcome the announcement from Minister McConalogue today of a Covid-19 Aquaculture Support Scheme for Irish shellfish producers.” 

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