Following discussions with Waterford TD John Deasy, Enterprise Ireland has agreed to collaborate with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to determine what benefit the agency can bring to the State’s fishing ports, including Dunmore East.
“Enterprise Ireland is the agency responsible for marketing our export food sector. I felt they should be involved in our ports and seafood industry,” the Fine Gael deputy said.
The Dáil Public Accounts Committee recently published a report on the six fishery harbour centres which shows their economic potential is not being realised.
The problem of idle, under-utilised and badly run properties has plagued many ports for years — “despite the fact that demand exists for these facilities,” the PAC found. Protracted legal wrangles have ensued in some cases, with poor relations between the Department and harbour users in general.
Deasy, who is vice-chairman of the PAC, said: “While the situation is worse in other ports, there are still some difficulties locally in Dunmore East, including complex issues surrounding arrears.
“But we now have a very proactive harbourmaster and the Department is making progress in dealing with legacy issues it inherited on taking over the marine portfolio eight years ago.”
The Committee’s report identified “a history of inefficiency” across the six centres, from poor property management to “archaic” accounts and lax financial controls, with facilities left vacant and revenues due to the State left uncollected.
In formulating its recommendations, and recognising the need for a more strategic approach, Deasy met with Enterprise Ireland CEO Julie Sinnamon — whose background is in the food industry — with a view to utilising its expertise.
“I put it to her that her agency should have a role in the future of these buildings for seafood processing or related commercial activity and her reaction to the suggestion of collaborating with BIM and the Department was positive.”
Briefing the PAC about the progress made in implementing new administrative and oversight structures for the harbours, Department secretary general Aidan O’Driscoll told Deputy Deasy that the involvement of Enterprise Ireland is “an excellent idea… and I am delighted about the idea of involving it in this process.”
The Committee has recommended that the largely-shelved business blueprint drawn up for the six ports in 2009 be revisited by a newly Fishery Harbours Development Board. It also wants a new arbitration-based dispute resolution mechanism established, and a clear segregation between the Department’s control functions and responsibility for harbour development.
Deasy added: “Landings are up but this is about maximising the local economic benefit. A number of people have approached me about processing shellfish and getting involved in seafood for export in the past six months in particular.
“Enterprise Ireland is the obvious agency to look at the assets we have in each of these ports and use their expertise to help market the industry abroad.”
Following a recent visit by the Dáil Public Accounts Committee to Vietnam, additional resources have been sanctioned to market the Irish dairy sector in Southeast Asia.
Waterford TD John Deasy, who led the delegation, said: “The inescapable fact is that Vietnam needs to be immediately targeted by Bord Bia due to the ending of the quota regime.
“The European Commission will shortly finalise a free trade agreement with Vietnam and by extension gain access to 630 million consumers in the ASEAN group of countries.”
He added: “A good deal has happened since our return. Following conversations I’ve had with Simon Coveney, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has agreed to fund additional Bord Bia personnel in emerging markets.
“Based on the draft report we’ve been working on, a Bord Bia presence in Vietnam to specifically target food and dairy industry trade links has been agreed in principle. We’ve also been in contact with Bord Bia who support this measure.”
Mr Deasy said: “One criticism we heard was that all of our bets seems to be placed on China. At present Bord Bia’s staff in that part of the world is based in Shanghai, while Enterprise Ireland operates out of Singapore.
“If we want a greater piece of the export trade dominated by countries such as New Zealand and Holland then we need to put resources in place to carry out market analysis and promotion; creating awareness of our capacity to produce premium dairy goods, including infant milk formula for instance,” the Fine Gael deputy added.
“Our local dairy farmers in Waterford rely on Bord Bia to expand the global market in order to sell their produce. We need to spread the risk associated with the volatility across the dairy sector by entering new territories such as Vietnam and other emerging economies.”