The scheme, announced by Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue, is aimed at providing sufficient funding to allow the fishing industry in Cork and across the country build the requisite infrastructure to cope with the aftermath of Brexit.
The scheme is based on a recommendation of the Seafood Taskforce which was established to assess the impacts of Brexit and the Trade and Cooperation Agreement on the fishing sector and coastal communities.
The task force recommended that the sector be provided with a stimulus to drive transformational change and thereby overcome constraints arising from Brexit and incentivise change by providing graduated grant aid rates for capital investment projects in the industry.
The scheme will offer three rates of support for capital expenditure.
The first-rate grant of up to 50% of the cost of the project will be for “transformational processing equipment” and it is targeted at funding secondary processing equipment to assist processing enterprises in moving away from commodity production to the production of higher value-added products and to further integrate the supply chain.
The second grant rate is up to 40% of the project for investments in renewable energy sources and enhancing the energy efficiency of buildings in which transformational processing equipment is housed.
And the third type of grant for up to 30% of the project will be provided for general upgrades to improve efficiencies.
This scheme is proposed for funding under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) which is an emergency instrument aimed at providing support to counter the adverse consequences of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union in Member States that are most negatively affected by the withdrawal, especially Ireland.
In particular, the scheme will assist seafood processors seeking to move away from commodity production to the production of higher value-added products.
It will also help those seeking to diversify their product offering and enter new markets.
Funding will also be available for seafood processors seeking to improve environmental performance and those aiming to achieve greater production efficiencies.
The fish processing sector sustained 4,355 jobs, paid €145 million of wages, and contributed €347 million to the Irish economy in 2018 and is particularly important for some of Ireland’s more peripheral and rural areas.
Due to Brexit, the sector has faced a myriad of challenges including reduced supply and reduced access to markets.
Speaking about the scheme, Mr McConalogue said it will significantly assist processing enterprises to adapt quickly, to become more sustainable in both a business sense and environmentally. Through the supports on offer, processors will be able to invest in innovative equipment, diversify their product lines and reach new, valuable markets, he said.
An Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) will be administering the scheme, and the Minister has requested that BIM open its call for applications as soon as possible. Due to the time limitations placed on BAR funding, investment projects must be completed before the end of 2023 to qualify for funding.
These investments will ensure that Ireland maintains its reputation as a source of premium quality seafood, protect food supply chains in times of uncertainty, grow coastal economies and sustain the natural environment, he said.