Mowi Ireland produce organic salmon products for retail market
Mowi's EUR 22m investment plan under threat due to licence regime
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with the Sunday Independent calling for the Government to introduce reforms to the licensing regime, which he said was outdated.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