“If this doesn’t improve in a few years’ time, I don’t think the industry will survive here”

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Slow pace of reform in salmon licensing system, which can currently take up to eight years to get a new licence, may see Mowi Ireland move elsewhere and pull its EUR 22m capital investment programme.

In an interview with Independant.ie, Mowi Ireland managing director Jan Feenstra said that Mowi’s Ireland subsidiary could be forced to move to other countries because of the lack of reforms to its licensing regime.

Feenstra met with Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed and told him the industry in Ireland was under threat as a result of the slow pace of reform.

Ireland’s authorities have not updated its regulatory framework and therefore has not granted any licenses for a salmon farm for 11 years – despite organic salmon farming being a major contributor to the sector.

“The investment has been channelled to other countries,” he said. “Unless we can secure the correct licences, that money is not going to be invested into the industry,” said Feenstra.

PHOTO SalmonBusiness composite – Anny Point site, Lough Swilly, Co. Donegal (Mowi) and Michael Creed TD is the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Wikipedia)

“If this doesn’t improve in a few years’ time, I don’t think the industry will survive here. Some 10,000 tonnes will probably be produced in Ireland this year; our largest site in Norway is 15,000 tonnes. Why is there so much hassle over so little fish? The view abroad is, ‘why is it so complicated in Ireland?'”

Feenstra that the system currently takes up to eight years to get a new licence: “New licences need to be progressed, and existing licences need to be renewed in a certain timeframe,” he said.

“It is taking eight years in some cases at the moment, but it should be two. There is no certainty; there is no way of planning your business because you don’t know how long it is going to take or whether you’ll get another licence.

“We are looking for a level playing field with the other salmon-producing nations of the world. In Scotland, we just built a €120m feed plant. There was a feed plant in Westport, but that closed down because the industry isn’t going anywhere.”

The publication reported that former CEO Alf-Helge Aarskog sent to Creed a letter last month in which he expressed “grave concerns that time is running out to fix and implement” and invited the Minister to come to Norway to witness “a modern licensing regime”.