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Minister Killeen Comments on Budgetary Situation for Fishing and Forestry

The Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Tony Killeen TD, has today pointed out that the Budget of €118 million for the seafood industry for 2009, in this era of financial restraint, demonstrated the Government's commitment to the sector.

While there are reductions in the budgets of the Marine Institute, BIM and the SFPA, the Minister noted that the seafood processing sector, which is recognised by Dr Noel Cawley in his "Steering A New Course Report" as a growth area, has in fact doubled it's budget, while a further €1.46 million has been set aside specifically to support compliance of fisheries and aquaculture with respect to activities in Natura 2000 sites. €5 million has been made available for aquaculture development support. In addition, funding has been provided to enable the successful completion of the current Decommissioning of Fishing Vessels Scheme.

In conjunction with these initiatives, Minister Killeen also welcomed the prospect of the synergies and opportunities that will result from the integration of seafood marketing and promotion with the State's food marketing body, Bord Bia, while BIM will retain the overall role in driving the Cawley Report on the development of the Irish seafood industry.

The Minister noted that the Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Programme 2009 allocation of €17 million ensures that there is substantial scope for improving facilities for fisheries activities operating out of Irish harbours. The Minister asserted that the budget allocated to this programme will be used to develop new infrastructure for fisheries and aquaculture landing places around the coast, while also enabling the continuation of projects currently underway at locations such as Castletownbere, Ros an Mhíl and Greencastle.

Minister Killeen pointed out that the estimate for Forestry for 2009 has increased by 6% over the 2008 estimate. Almost €128 million is being earmarked for this sector next year. This commitment reflects the Government's wish to maintain an active and substantial forestry-planting programme including the very successful Forestry Environmental Protection Scheme (FEPS).

The Minister said that "This continued support for Forestry recognises the increasing need to respond to the demands of climate change, to ensure a substantial alternative to fossil fuels and to preserve the long-term value of trees and the intermediate value of thinnings. The allocation allows substantial Forestry Programmes to continue in 2009, and for the most important of the support programmes, including Forest Road construction to be promoted".

He added that the value for money in all of the support programmes will need to be demonstrated, and the allocation of funding will be on a basis of strict prioritisation of programmes.

The Minister also pointed out that in excess of €80 million of this estimate was in the continuing payment of the annual Forestry premiums, the bulk of which are paid, and constitute a important source of income to, the almost 15,000 farmers already engaged in commercial forestry in the country.

With regard to the assimilation of COFORD into the Department, the Minister of State fully recognises the huge contribution COFORD has made to the forestry and timber sector in recent years. The details of the structural changes remain to be finalised, but the allocation to the research, development and promotion work in this area will remain significant at nearly €4million.

Date Released: 15 October 2008