On the 8th of March last, The IS&WFPO Chairman and Chief Executive jointly wrote to Minister McConalogue on behalf of the Membership of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation regarding the crisis facing the Irish Fishing Industry and Irish Fishing Communities arising from the exponential increases in the price of fuel facing every Fishing enterprise since last Autumn with these fuel-related difficulties having now reached critical levels flowing from the knock-on consequences of the War in Ukraine.
In their joint letter they said:
We have already explained to the Minister that our Industry and the Membership of this Organization provide a critically important food-source, not just for the people of Ireland but also, for the people of Europe but with skyrocketing fuel prices and a stagnant market, neither our Members nor the wider Irish Fishing Industry can now afford to put to sea.
Without affordable fuel our Fishing Boats cannot put to sea but even if they were to do so, the price of fuel for transport to Market by road and Ferry service will ensure that the value of every Catch will be wiped out long before it gets anywhere close to Market.
Accordingly, there will be few if any landings of fish into Irish Fishing Ports over coming weeks and months unless Government immediately ensures that Excise Duties and Taxes, specifically Value Added Tax, on fuel for our Fishing Fleet, are slashed to the very bare minimum or zero and fuel is itself subsidized to enable Fishing enterprises put to sea and engage in fishing with the costs of haulage to Market by road and Ferry to the Continent being also subsidized to ensure that Catches can reach consumers all over Europe.
We repeat our belief that unless the drastic actions we have outlined above are immediately implemented, critical food shortages will arise within days.
We cannot believe and fail to understand why neither our Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine nor the Government itself have done anything to help alleviate this fast-approaching Food Security crisis which, by any stretch of the imagination amounts to a Force Majeure.
You will be aware that when the Covid Pandemic struck in early-/mid- 2020 our Industry was requested to continue trading by former Minister Michael Creed despite our Boats suffering financial losses, thereby proving our importance in providing Food Security. The fact of our Industry being designated as an essential service left no one in any doubt as to our strategic importance to our Country and Europe.
With all due respects, the difficulties faced by our Fishing Industry during the Covid Pandemic pale into insignificance when compared to today’s sky-rocketing fuel prices that act as an insurmountable hurdle to any prospects of Irish Fishing Boats putting to sea and subsequently transporting their Catches to Market and so, Minister, we believe it is critically important that you and your Cabinet colleagues immediately authorize the declaration of a State of Emergency to enable Food Security for our Nation and the Peoples of Europe, allied with an immediate slashing to Zero of all Taxes and Duties on Fuel, both at sea and on land insofar as this latter relates to the costs of transport to Market of Fish and Fisheries Products.
In the event that the slashing of Taxes and Duties on Fuel does not allow or enable Fishing Boats to go to sea and catch and land Fish Catches capable of reaching the Market, we advocate for targeted Fuel Subsidies to be made available with these latter to be consented to, if necessary, by the EU Commission. and accordingly, we have copied in the office of EU Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius.
Minister, we wish to re-emphasize to you that the price of Fuel has now reached and gone beyond critical levels across the Fishing Industry and we must therefore advocate for this urgent action to be immediately undertaken as we believe that it is only under a State of Emergency that the Fishing and Agri-food businesses can be guaranteed a Fuel supply so as to enable them to continue operating and bringing food to the dinner-tables of Europe.
In our letter to you on the 8th of March last we suggested that the price of Fuel to our Industry must be capped to ensure the viability of these critically important Food businesses soas to avoid unstable and soaring market prices which will otherwise be driven by food scarcity that may well lead to panic-buying by consumers with means in the Marketplace.
We therefore urge that you and your Cabinet Colleagues urgently act, as we have suggested, to ensure Food Security at a reasonable cost for EU Citizens and for those 3 + Million Refugees who, to date have been unfortunate enough to have had to flee their homeland and seek refuge within the EU.
When we wrote to you on the 8th March last we did not mention the fact that Ireland had received a very considerable sum in EU Funds amounting to some €1.2 Bn as a means of enabling the Irish Agriculture and Fisheries Sectors, in particular, to be compensated for business interruption, loss of Fishing Opportunity, Waters and Stocks and other damage flowing from Brexit. You are aware of the Tie-up Scheme implemented by you through your Department’s Servants arising from the Recommendations of the Report published in early July 2021 by the Task Force established by you and you will recollect that the Tie-up Scheme was to be implemented in both 2021 and 2022. Even at this time of heightened crisis we have yet to hear from either you or your Civil Servants with the arrangements proposed for a Tie-up Scheme this year despite the fact that almost one quarter of the year has already passed. We urge you to immediately communicate to us and to the wider Fishing Industry your proposals for a Tie-up Scheme that will operate throughout 2022.
We cannot over-emphasize the importance of such a Tie-up Scheme for our Members and for the wider Fishing Community all along our coastline at this critical juncture as both our Members and Fishermen and women are shocked at the fact that nothing has yet been announced to enable such a Scheme despite the fact that the EU has made so much public money available to support such Scheme.
On behalf of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organization I respectfully request that you bring the content of our correspondence to Cabinet for their immediate consideration so we with our Members may plan for the storage and enabling of the necessary price-sensitive Fuel that will enable Ireland’s Fishing Fleet put to sea confident in the knowledge that the Fish they make available to European and Irish Consumers can and will be caught and placed on the Market for Sale. Moreover, given the confluence of the EU Funding consequent upon Brexit and the economic crisis flowing from events in Ukraine, we trust that both you and your Cabinet Colleagues will immediately make Proposals for a Tie-up Scheme available to ourselves and all other Producer Organizations so we may consider and sign off on them.
Chairman Damien Turner
CEO Patrick Murphy