Dáil Éireann - Volume 493 - 01 July, 1998

Priority Questions. - Bord Iascaigh Mhara.

22. Mr. Finucane asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources the consideration, if any, being given to the overseas promotional role of Bord Iascaigh Mhara; and his views on whether this role could be more effectively carried out by Bord Bia. [16569/98]

Dr. Woods: I am currently discussing with my colleague the Minister for Agriculture and Food the respective roles of BIM and Bord Bia in the seafood export marketing function and the future strategic relationship between the two agencies. Having considered this matter in detail, the optimum [920] benefits in terms of the use of resources will be achieved through defining clear complementary roles for both organisations. To give an exclusive remit to either body would not offer the best results.

In general BIM should retain a specialist marketing focus as the integrated development agency for the seafood sector. There are a number of reasons I have come to this view. They include the recent organisational change in BIM itself, my analysis of the specific characteristics and needs of the fisheries sector, trends in the EU and global seafood market and the stated preferences and needs of Irish seafood processors and exporters.

This should not preclude an ongoing important role for Bord Bia in terms of incorporating seafood into its generic food promotion and trade activities overseas especially at the top end of the value added chain and in markets where realistically BIM cannot have a presence. Bord Bia has been doing a first class job for the overall Irish food export sector since inception and the two agencies can work together effectively, as appropriate and without overlap, in delivering on their respective and complementary remits. I will shortly discuss mechanisms for delivering this strategic relationship with the Minister for Agriculture and Food with a view to agreeing an overall strategic approach to be agreed by Government which will clarify and set the way forward for BIM and Bord Bia in this area.

I am pleased good progress is being made to maximise existing and new markets for Irish seafood worldwide. Exports have increased by more than 60 per cent since 1990 and are now worth over £250 million per annum. There is exponential demand in the EU and worldwide for high value seafood as well as for the fresh product. Strategic co-operation between BIM and Bord Bia reflecting their respective expertise and responsibilities will deliver the most cost efficient and effective use of State resources and networks in the global market and will be in the best interests of the seafood sector as a whole.

Mr. Finucane: Following the review of the expert group on the food industry in 1993 Bord Bia was established in 1994. When the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry at the time, Deputy Walsh, introduced Bord Bia he stated that fish was included as one of the categories and it was now time for assimilating the promotion of BIM into Bord Bia's remit. Does the Minister agree that when one looks at the marketing resources and locations of Bord Bia, they exceed the marketing potential of BIM; that there is a validity in all food being encompassed by one agency rather than parochial operations divided between the Departments of the Marine and Natural Resources and Agriculture and Food and it is probably necessary for Bord Bia to focus on all food activities?

[921] Dr. Woods: It is particularly important for the seafood sector that there be a vertically integrated marketing approach so that a producer is not on a wing somewhere. The producer should produce for a customer and this should be market oriented. That runs through the entire sector and it is big enough for that. The seafood sector will become much bigger and it is diverse. I do not see any great difficulty in BIM co-operating and working out a memorandum of understanding with Bord Bia on how they will operate in specialist areas where Bord Bia will operate directly and in other areas where they can combine on an all Irish seafood basis. I prefer that the operation of seafood production and development be market led and driven. If it is to be market led, one must be in the marketplace providing support. I will discuss the matter with the Minister for Agriculture and Food and we will look at the development of a memorandum of understanding in that regard.

Mr. Finucane: Is the Minister saying that what his colleague, Deputy Walsh, said in May 1994 is no longer valid with regard to the assimilation of BIM into the activities for overseas marketing of Bord Bia? It is time he examined the overall thrust of marketing, duplication, etc. I welcome the fact that something is being done. I am glad I tabled the question if it provokes a response from him.

Dr. Woods: With regard to marketing, one does not have a product without a marketing approach. I do not care how one wishes to co-ordinate everything nationally, but without being market driven in production and every facet of the industry, one will not stay in the market or win new markets.

Mr. Finucane: We are aware of that.

Dr. Woods: I am the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources and I am telling the Deputy about my approach. If he wants somebody else to take the job, he should get him or her.

Mr. Finucane: What about the Minister for Agriculture and Food?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Deputy Finucane, I ask you not to interrupt the Minister.

Mr. Finucane: The Minister is looking for a confrontation.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The time for this question has expired and you have not allowed the Minister time to answer your question.

Dr. Woods: The Minister for Agriculture and Food and I are drawing up a memorandum of understanding on how we can co-operate most effectively in that area.