Fish farm licences ‘too slow’

Farmed salmon producer Marine Harvest Ireland (MHI) says it is turning away business due to the slowness of Irish licensing processes, writes Joe Dermody.

The global Norwegian seafood group with €3 billion annual turnover reported record Irish pre-tax profits for the second quarter of 2017, with operational profits of €12.2 million and financial EBIT of €8m.

Globally, the group had €199m operational EBIT for the quarter, up from €149m in Q2 2016, based on global revenues of €884m.

Fish farm licences ‘too slow’

MHI managing director, Jan Feenstra, said: “Alongside favourable biological factors, market demand from continental processing factories and key Irish salmon smokers have all been very strong, supporting firm pricing.”

However, he sounded a note of caution on licensing issues. In 2015, MHI invested €3.5m in a second salmon farm in Bantry Bay after a four-year application and appeals process which faced strong local resistance.

“Unfortunately, we continue to turn away business as we are finding it impossible to grow even with our existing customers.

It is vital for our continued success and the growth of our industry that the regulatory framework, including issuing of new licenses and compliance management, is regularised and brought up to international standards and best practices. We are keen to see the implementation of the recommendations of the Aquaculture Licensing Review Group.”

The group saw increased output at its organic Atlantic salmon farms off the coasts of Donegal, Mayo and Cork. Its Irish harvest volume was 3,634 tonnes gutted weight, up from 1,452 tonnes in the comparable quarter of 2016. Its Irish operational profits equate to €3.35 per kg.

The record results in the quarter are due to good operational performance, lower cost and strong prices, MHI stated. The cost reduction is caused by lower biological costs, plus lower indirect costs due to scale.

The group operates across 23 countries, with 11,715 workers. It has salmon farms in Scotland, Norway, Canada, Chile, Ireland and the Faroe Islands.

Marine Harvest has operated in Ireland for 38 years, employing more than 290 people in remote coastal communities at its salmon farms and hatcheries.

This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.

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