The Government is releasing £130,000 to help local fishers suffering the effects of covid and the French fishing row’s impact on exports.
The ‘Fisheries Products Market Connectivity Scheme’ will provide temporary financial support to the marine sector to make up for the “significant” disruption caused by Brexit.
A report outlining the decision signed off by Assistant Economic Development Minister Deputy Kirsten Morel last week explained: “International tensions on a revised fishing licence regime, implemented as a result of Brexit, have resulted in the emergence of a range of non-tariff trade barriers which have caused significant detriment to Jersey businesses through the introduction of increased costs for exported fisheries products.
“Re-direction of exports from the Port of Granville to the Port of Saint Malo, disruption to ferry timetables caused by the covid pandemic and variable interpretation and implementation of a new export ‘technical process’ by French authorities have all contributed to increasing export costs for industry.
“Assistance to freight and logistics providers and exporters, enabling market access for Jersey fishery products in recent months, has and will reduce the requirement for other government intervention (financial support) for the Jersey marine sector.”
Pictured: The scheme aims to help those hit by redirection of exports at the Ports of Saint Malo (above) and Granville as a result of the fishing row with France.
The scheme will take the form of a direct payment to export operators to offset extra costs caused by “non-tariff trade barriers encountered by business which have significantly increased export costs or had trade prevented from taking place for exported goods (requiring their return or destruction).”
This, the decision said, will help “maintain market access” while ensuring that marine businesses aren’t directly hurt by the diplomatic dispute.
The scheme has been described as “short-term” but will continue until “diplomatic relations have normalised”.
Jersey lacks a large-scale commercial fish processing plant, and discussions about whether the Government could help fund the creation of one to bolster the local industry had previously come to the fore in the aftermath of May’s fishing protests.
But Economic Development Minister Senator Lyndon Farnham confirmed yesterday that this was unlikely. He said that the creation of such a facility would have to be driven by the private sector.
Pictured: Senator Lyndon Farnham said the creation of a fish processing plant would likely have to be a private endeavour.
During a grilling by politicians tasked with reviewing the Government Plan alongside Deputy Morel yesterday, he commented: “The original idea was floated because I felt that it could be a good use of the Fiscal Stimulus Fund, but of course we’ve missed that, that window now has closed, so really it’s in the hands of the private sector.
“We’ve had discussions with a number of individuals who’ve thought about forming some sort of co-operative or some sort of joining up of business interests to make something like this happen, but I think it’s just more complicated than originally envisaged, and it’s something I think it’s something I think the private sector is likely to deal with in its own way.
“But it still leaves the fact that the vast majority of sea food that we consume is imported and vast majority we catch locally is exported, so it’s a complex economic issue to resolve that.”
Scrutineer and former Environment Minister Deputy Steve Luce challenged him over the “precedent” set when the Government funded a packhouse for vegetable producers.
Deputy Morel commented: “We’re working on this… we’re working with the industry, we’ve set up a marine economy advisory group, I think that includes fishermen on the Jersey Fishermen’s Association, that includes fish merchants, that includes fish exporters, that includes fishmongers locally as well.
“…The idea there is to work to to create a long term strategy for the success and the sustainability of Jersey’s marine industry, as in the fishing industry, but that includes fish farming.”
He continued: “The question of a fish processing plant has to be part and built within that strategy, so I agree with the Minister and I agree with you that it may well be an important part of that strategy, but to jump to the conclusion that we need a fish processing plant without checking how the economics of the thing would work I believe is the wrong order to do things in.
“You look at the evidence, you look at the industry. I don’t believe public funds should be used to support anything that’s going to put one of those stakeholders that I just mentioned out of business, so I think it’s really important that if public funds are used, t hat all of the stakeholders around the table are able to benefit from that, and so I think it’s a huge step forward.
“We have the industry and all different aspects of the industry working together, they’re meeting monthly, talking to each other, trying to find out the best way forward for the industry. We have officers working to develop that strategy which will come through I’m absolutely positive in the first few months of next year, and from there we will be able to see is the fish processing plant the best way forward.
“Should we be sending caught fish here to existing plants in the UK to be processed as Jersey Dairy does already with its cheese and its ice cream and things like this?... I don’t know the answer, but I’m not going to jump to answer before I’ve looked at all the evidence of the economics will work.”
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