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Mowi Ireland produce organic salmon products for retail market

Mowi's EUR 22m investment plan under threat due to licence regime

Click on the flag for more information about Republic of Ireland REPUBLIC OF IRELAND
Wednesday, November 20, 2019, 06:00 (GMT + 9)

Norwegian group's planned EUR 22m investment under threat over lack of reforms

Mowi, a Nor­we­gian seafood com­pany, says it could be forced to move a EUR 22m cap­i­tal in­vest­ment pro­gramme in its Ir­ish sub­sidiary to other coun­tries due to the slow pace of re­form in the seafood li­cens­ing sys­tem here.

Jan Feen­stra, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Mowi Ire­land, for­merly known as Ma­rine Har­vest, made the com­ments in an in­ter­view with the Sun­day In­de­pen­dent call­ing for the Gov­ern­ment to in­tro­duce re­forms to the li­cens­ing regime, which he said was out­dated.

Mowi, which had a global turnover of al­most EUR 3.8bn and em­ployed 14,500 peo­ple in 2018, has 13 op­er­a­tions across five coastal coun­ties in Ire­land. It em­ploys nearly 300 peo­ple here, record­ing an­nual sales of EUR 66.1m.

Feen­stra, who re­cently met with Min­is­ter for Agri­cul­ture Michael Creed, said the sec­tor in Ire­land was un­der threat as a re­sult of the slow pace of re­form. He said the depart­ment had pub­lished an in­de­pen­dent re­view of the li­cens­ing regime in 2017 but had failed to im­ple­ment the pro­posed changes to the sys­tem in­cluded within it, re­sult­ing in harm to the sec­tor.

He said the busi­ness had a EUR 22m cap­i­tal in­vest­ment plan for Ire­land, which would see it em­ploy 100 more staff and en­ter new sites on the west coast of the coun­try. How­ever, the busi­ness will not be in­vest­ing the money in Ire­land un­der the cur­rent li­cens­ing regime.

“The in­vest­ment has been chan­nelled to other coun­tries,” he said. “Un­less we can se­cure the cor­rect li­cences, that money is not go­ing to be in­vested into the in­dus­try.

Mowi Ireland operates in five counties on the west coast of Ireland, from Donegal in the north of the country to Cork and Kerry in the southwest of the country

“If this doesn’t im­prove in a few years’ time, I don’t think the in­dus­try will sur­vive here. Some 10,000 tonnes will prob­a­bly be pro­duced in Ire­land this year; our largest site in Nor­way is 15,000 tonnes. Why is there so much has­sle over so lit­tle fish? The view abroad is, ‘why is it so com­pli­cated in Ire­land?’”

Feen­stra added that for the in­dus­try to sur­vive, there was a need to speed up the is­su­ing of li­cences. “New li­cences need to be pro­gressed, and ex­ist­ing li­cences need to be re­newed in a cer­tain time­frame,” he said.

“It is tak­ing eight years in some cases at the mo­ment, but it should be two. There is no cer­tainty; there is no way of plan­ning your busi­ness be­cause you don’t know how long it is go­ing to take or whether you’ll get an­other li­cence.

Marine Harvest (Mowi) have been producing Organic salmon since 2004 in Clare Island, Co. Mayo and in Bantry Bay and Kenmare Bay since 2008.

“We are look­ing for a level play­ing field with the other salmon-pro­duc­ing na­tions of the world. In Scot­land, we just built a EUR 120m feed plant. There was a feed plant in West­port, but that closed down be­cause the in­dus­try isn’t go­ing any­where.”

Mowi has upped calls for re­forms of the Ir­ish li­cens­ing regime after the com­pany had a li­cence re­voked at a fish farm in Co Kerry by the Gov­ern­ment for breach­ing its li­cence con­di­tions. Mowi con­firmed it is to take the mat­ter to a ju­di­cial re­view.

Last month, Alf-Helge Aarskog, the now former chief ex­ec­u­tive of Mowi, also sent Mr Creed a let­ter, seen by the Sun­day In­de­pen­dent. In the let­ter, he ex­pressed “grave con­cerns that time is run­ning out to fix and im­ple­ment” the li­cens­ing frame­work in Ire­land, and in­vited the min­is­ter to come to Nor­way to wit­ness “a mod­ern li­cens­ing regime”.

In 2017, the Gov­ern­ment pub­lished a re­port by the In­de­pen­dent Aqua­cul­ture Li­cens­ing Re­view Com­mit­tee, ex­am­in­ing the li­cens­ing process in the sec­tor and the le­gal frame­work.

The Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture said a li­cenc­ing back­log had been cre­ated fol­low­ing a neg­a­tive judge­ment by the Euro­pean Court of Jus­tice (ECJ) against Ire­land in 2007. It added that it is cur­rently seek­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact state­ments from fish farm­ers in re­spect of li­cence re­newal ap­pli­ca­tions. It said clear­ing the back­log of shell­fish li­cence ap­pli­ca­tions, ex­pected by the end of the year, will ben­e­fit the in­dus­try.

Source: Sunday Independent

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