Friday, 19 September 2014

Grants for processors receive mixed reaction

Kepak in Athleague is to receive €3.99 million in grant assistance from the Government after it was announced this week that it is one of the beef and sheep processing to be grant aided by the Government as part of a €69 million capital investment package. Under the scheme, Kepak Athleague is to benefit by €3.99 million in grant assistance over three years for an integrated beef and lamb project to improve product quality and efficient processing. Others to benefit include Kepak in Ballymahon and Dawn Meats in Ballyhaunis.

The grant under the Beef and Sheepmeat Investment Fund is expected to increase net sales and exports by €400 million and create over 800 jobs. However, the grant has met a mixed reaction from farmers. Some local politicians have welcomed the announcement, while others reacted by saying that if the Government has funds available, it should pay the money it owes to farmers.

Making the announcement, The Taoiseach Brian Cowen TD said, “In providing over €69 million in grant assistance, the Government would stimulate the necessary investment in the sector to ensure the long-term competitiveness of the industry in Ireland. This is a multi-annual investment package and grant assistance will be paid over a number of years.”

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, described the beef and sheepmeat processing industries as “critically important indigenous industries and vital components of the agri-food sector. This is the largest capital investment in upgrading our meat processing capacity in 20 years.”

IFA President Padraig Walshe said it was a positive development for Irish agriculture, but warned that it is essential that higher returns are passed on to livestock farmers, a view echoed by Martin McMahon of the ICMSA. ICSA President Malcolm Thompson questioned the Government’s motivation in delivering such a generous aid package at a time when farmer grants and payments were being cut.

“I have no objection to processors getting grants when monies are available, but a string of budget cuts on farmer schemes suggests that this cannot be afforded at present,” Mr Thompson said.

Locally, the investment was welcomed by Cllr. Martin Connaughton, who congratulated Kepak on being one of the few groups to receive funding and said that he hopes that it will help maintain and create jobs at the Athleague company.

Local election candidate Laurence Fallon, while welcoming the investment, said that there is no real possibility that this funding will create the additional 800 jobs alluded to or increase sales and exports by the €400 million predicted. “The success of meat factories is reliant on those factories being able to receive adequate raw materials in the form or cattle and lambs or sheep yet the reality is this Fianna Fáil Government has abandoned farmers, the primary producers,” stated Mr. Fallon.