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Ireland's oyster farmers have been particularly affected by market closures. Photo: BIM.
Ireland's oyster farmers have been particularly affected by market closures. Photo: BIM.

Irish shellfish growers who have been hit hard by the effects of the Covid-19 crisis are hoping the government will agree a subsidy / compensation scheme to offset some of their lost income.

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The aquaculture branch of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) proposed the scheme following a survey of members that showed a predicted 58% reduction in annual turnover for Irish aquaculture this year.

An assessment of quarterly turnover of Q1 and Q2 of 2020 has shown a reduction of 70-100% when compared for the same period last year.

Wage subsidy

Eighty per cent of the 59 IFA Aquaculture members who responded to the survey have availed themselves of national Covid-19 support already, the majority of whom (95%) have accessed the Wage Subsidy Scheme (63%) and / or Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (55%).

Following the survey the IFA sent the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) a list of suggested measures which its members believed could help them, including suspension of annual aquaculture licence fees, a subsidised scheme for loss of sales / reduction in production, and compensation for stock lost due to mortality or because stock was unsaleable.

After discussing the proposals with DAFM the IFA is has submitted a revised proposal focused mainly on the possibility of a subsidised / compensation scheme for aquaculture producers, particularly shellfish producers.

IFA Aquaculture has been in constant discussion with DAFM, which is responsible for administering European Maritime and Fisheries Fund cash redirected to help aquaculture producers survive during the Covid-19 period. 

Awaiting a response

“We are awaiting a response from DAFM on our most recent proposal and have sought a meeting to discuss and progress this proposal,” said an IFM Aquaculture spokesperson.

The Irish oyster industry, in particular, has been affected by the crisis since the start of the year due to market losses in China and Hong Kong, and has already suffered considerable losses which the IFM is currently in the process of quantifying. Oyster income had been reduced by as much as 100% by the end of April.

As in Scotland, harvesting and processing of salmon has continued, with the sector adapting to the shutdown of the food service market by producing more products for the retail sector.

However, prices are down for the first time in years.

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