Falklands : The Hon Mrs Phyl Rendell, MLA Portfolio Report and Debate:
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 07.02.2014 (Article Archived on 07.03.2014)
My portfolios include Fisheries and Agriculture at the Natural Resources Department and I am also going to comment on FIMCO kicking off its export season at the beginning of this month...
The Hon Mrs Phyl Rendell, MLA Portfolio Report and Debate:
PR: My portfolios include Fisheries and Agriculture at the Natural Resources Department and I am also going to comment on FIMCO kicking off its export season at the beginning of this month. Also I chair the Rural Development Strategy Steering Groups and to address Rural Development as well.
Regarding the fisheries, currently applications for Illex Licences have been processed. Applications exceeded the number of licences available which is very encouraging. Payment for licences is also underway and I am advised that we have received some £5.6 Million for those licences. And we received that amount from 15 vessels. So it is very encouraging. But of course everyone is aware that Illex is very subject to climatic and oceanographic conditions so we are not there yet. So we are hopeful that squid will swim into our zone and we can retain that money and there aren’t any remuneration payments. But we will have to see. The Director of Fisheries informs me that we are anticipating more funds over and above that £5.6 Million but that’s the position that we stand at currently.
There is always uncertainty over Illex and this could be mitigated somewhat if we could enter with Argentina into the South Atlantic Fisheries Commission process again. Up until 2005 these meetings were held very successfully on a technical level and we do regret that bilateral discussions have gone away because of political reasons. And I think we would like to make it clear that the Falkland Islands’ Government and the Fisheries Department would very much welcome entering into those discussions. It could happen now and we could get back to changing data. It is really a massive issue that we are not sharing Data and protecting the whole fishery for the South-West Atlantic.
I presume that Falkland Islands’ Flagged fishing vessels are beginning to arrive now for the Loligo Season and in many cases they are undergoing inspection by the Veterinary Section to ensure they comply with standards set for Freezer Factory Fishing Vessels.
Turning to ITQ, those that had been listening to the last EXCO round-up, Executive Council have requested a review of the individual transferrable quota – the ITQ process or System. The Director of Fisheries is working on the terms of reference for that together with the Head of Policy, Jamie Fotheringham, and we look forward to receiving those terms of reference and seeing what work lays ahead. The fishing industry will very much be engaged in that. And we look forward to having an analysis, really, of the ITQ System, which has been really active since 2006 with some other parts of the fisheries since 2008.
The Fisheries Department also addresses marine issues and maritime issues and there is ongoing work on maritime policies and legislation in conjunction with consultants, Fisher Associates, as part of the Oil Readiness Review. That is a large piece of work being undertaken and I believe there are meetings in the coming week.
The Department of Natural Resources has a responsibility for FIMCO in that it provides a veterinary and meat hygiene inspector services. And, for those listening, FIMCO (Falkland Islands’ Meat Company) started its export season in early January. I saw about 80 people down there working extremely hard processing Falklands’ Meat for export and the domestic market.
I visited the Abattoir last Friday and I was very impressed with the processes and how the team is operating and what a good spirit there was down at the Abattoir and I was also very interested to see how added value was being made from the product there such as the salting and sale of skins and also quite a lot of the awful is now being processed. So with everything being processed we get more value for the stock so it is really important to try and ensure that the business is successful.
Looking at Agriculture next, I went to the Ram and Fleece Show at Fox Bay for the first time on the 28th of December and my Colleagues the Honourable Edwards and Hansen were there, too so we had a get-together as Camp Elected Members. I was very impressed with the display of sheep and fleeces at the show and I would like to congratulate Nigel and Keith Knight for the work that they put in over the years to keep that show going and it’s really part of the calendar now in December. It was good, too, to see a lot of people from the East – not only farmers but it is a community event coming across on the ferry and attending that at Fox Bay. And it’s a great opportunity for farmers to share ideas and compete against each other in the competition.
The Department of Agriculture advises that some farmers this season reported strong growth of forage crops – particularly of forage oats. And in other instances forage swede crops have been impacted by the poor summer conditions, with crop losses reported due to frost and wind erosion. And if you’ve got your own vegetable garden you will know about that. I think some people’s potatoes have been frosted at some point this month.
Furthermore we have to be aware that we are impacted upon by the Global economy and that the resurgent British economy and the struggling Australian economy are interacting to pace down the pressure on the Falkland Islands’ wool prices. Farmers are currently being urged to plan for income reductions in the order of 15 to 25% for the season’s wool production with potential for further reductions. So it has helped the industry to have these warnings so we can plan and work around those.
A review by the Department of Agriculture on historic data shows that those farmers that changed their sheep genetics over the last 10 years have made a remarkable change in farming and having retained their greasy fleece rates they have also managed to reduce their clip in some cases to as much as 3 micron. And this is equivalent to £1 to £3.00 per kilo. It is most encouraging to see that farmers have gone through that genetic change in their sheep.
Many farmers are responding to FIMCO’s requests for more beef and a high quality of beef is going into the domestic market at present. We are not exporting beef but beef in the shops is of considerably higher quality than it was 4 or 5 years ago. Most of the beef going into the market is under 3 years’ old and farmers are investing in finishing crops and so on to improve beef production.
While mentioning beef there was a National Beef Herd sale at Saladero on the weekend which was very encouraging. Farmers were buying Angus Cattle with calves and some bulls and that spreads the genetics around the Islands more quickly and improves the quality of beef. The next sale will be the 8th of March which will be the National Stud Flock Ram Sale and we are expecting a good crowd of farmers present there.
Turning to the RDS, the steering group has been very active in the last few months trying to deliver the action plan that we want them to and the co-ordinator, Nuala Knight has been extremely active and we are now looking at recruiting a mechanic for Fox Bay to be based on the West for the West Falkland farmers. Also we are looking at an energy advisor post to advise on alternative energy. We are nearing budget time and we have to start looking ahead so Nuala is now looking at what might be in our longer-term – 3 year action plan. She has been holding workshops and we have been having discussions with our Camp constituents. There is a public meeting in March when they go to Goose Green and Fox Bay. And we will be briefly calling at Port Howard as well.
I would just like to ask my Colleagues, the Honourable Members to, whenever they are working with their portfolios to always remember the Camp and those services that those Departments are providing and that we don’t forget that we are one country and those services should be provided at high standards to every part of the Falklands.
PR: …….I would just like to ask my Colleagues, the Honourable Members to, whenever they are working with their portfolios to always remember the Camp and those services that those Departments are providing and that we don’t forget that we are one country and those services should be provided at high standards to every part of the Falklands.
JC: Firstly (I would just) thank the Honourable Phyl Rendell for a very interesting account of agricultural things. But going back to the fisheries information that you gave us, it is my understanding that what we used to call Loligo Gahi has been renamed so that it’s not confused with other Loligo Squid produced in other areas and perhaps not of such fine quality as our one.
Can she tell me whether marketing information in the future will use the agreed new name that we have adopted?
PR: Thank you for that extremely important point. I couldn’t answer today if that has been made policy but I certainly bring it up at the Department of Fisheries and bring you a reply.
BE: Mr Speaker, I, too would like to thank my Honourable Colleague for the information but I wonder if I can ask her a question related to FIMCO? During the election campaign pensioners - a man and wife - came up to see me in the West Store and asked about the price of meat. They felt it had gone up an awful lot and were struggling to make ends meet because meat was part of their staple diet. I wrote to the Manager of FIMCO and asked him what had been the price increases over the last years. He told me that the price of meat as sold to the public here had increased by 40% over the last three years. And a recent visit to the Chandlery showed me that it is cheaper to buy imported Uruguayan Beef than it is to buy local beef. I wonder how my Honourable Colleague would respond to the couple who were concerned by the price rises.
PR: Indeed, if you want better quality beef – not old 8 and 9 year-old cattle – if you want beef that is under 3 years and of high quality, unfortunately the top price has to go up. We are trying very hard to reduce the subsidy that has been paid some years – not every year – to FIMCO – and to do so we have to look at the cost of the domestic kill and try to meet the sales price – the cost price. So unfortunately, yes, but some cuts, I am reliably told by the Manager, John Ferguson, have increased as much as 40%.
But I am told in actual fact beef mince has reduced in price and other cuts have certainly not risen that much so it depends on the cut. But I think it’s a matter of choice. If we are to improve the standard of the meat and have a regular standard in the shops – not have a good cut one week and an old not so tasty the other week so customers don’t have that confidence in the product, we have to pay for it. Farmers have to grow crops or find fodder to bring their animals up to standards for FIMCO and that costs money.
And they won’t be in the business if they can’t make a little bit of money from it. So I think it is inevitable. There are other ways, I guess, for people on lower incomes. They can still access meat directly from the farms and I take the Honourable Barry Elsby’s point about our meat possible be more expensive than that imported from Uruguay.
But it is a fresh product. You are buying frozen product if you are buying from Uruguay. I think that’s going to be the case with many things. We cannot compete with the mass scale of the beef industry in Uruguay or Brasil or wherever. I think you will probably find the same thing with potatoes and carrots that are produced locally. You are buying and paying for something that is a fresh product that is probably been grown organically.
GS: I thank the Honourable Lady for her report. Could I just ask one question please before I forget? Did I understand you correctly when you said that the domestic meat market must wash its face – break even – pay its own way or are we to continue subsidising the world market?
PR: I didn’t actually say that. I said we should be endeavouring to make the domestic meat market wash its face as well as the export market. We don’t want to subsidise either if we can help it. So we are not looking at making money from the domestic market when the export market is being subsidised. FIMCO is looking at everything in the round and costing what it takes to process each carcass and has to charge accordingly.
And it’s a difficult situation when globally prices can suddenly collapse like they did last year. I am told that the prices are looking better overseas.
GS: I thank the Honourable Lady for her reply and for clarifying that. I wasn’t quite sure that I heard it properly. I apologise. Actually I enjoyed your report and I thank you very much for that, especially the fisheries stuff. Obviously I was the post-holder last time and have quite a liking for the Fisheries Department. I agree – when it comes to Illex it normally is feast or famine and it is a time of year when I actually used to find my nervous system going slightly wrong and becoming more cantankerous than normal as you just did not know what was going to happen.
I fully concur with your thoughts and conclusions about the South Atlantic Fisheries Commission. As I have said in this house before, it is almost criminal that some fish stocks have been driven to the point of extinction simply because our neighbour wishes to make a political point.
(Inaudible possibly Migrant), as those poor beasties as I call them, are going to be really hurt. But it is really hard when I believe the department in Argentina that sets the total allowable catches don’t actually listen to their own scientists anyway. But we must keep trying for the sake of sanity to get some sort of agreement and control over some of those fish stocks.
I did have one question please, though, the Grenadier Fishery. Do you know how close we may be to getting that licenced?
PR: I am afraid I don’t know where we are with the Grenadier but I will certainly get that information for you.
IH: Thank you Mr Speaker (I will) just very briefly touch upon a couple of things. I would like to thank the Honourable Phyl Rendell for her report. About the discussion on FIMCO, I think a great deal of credit does go to FIMCO and also the continued commitment of farmers. Without that commitment, of course, there wouldn’t be FIMCO. But we do have to remember – and the Honourable Phyl Rendell did touch upon it – the cost of bringing animals up to standard to go to the Abattoir is quite considerable to farmers. Also the value of new season Lamb, old season lamb and old whether(s) is also part of the conscious business decision farmers have to make on a daily basis when they are looking at wool prices and prices of meat because it can happen. In good years, a good shearling will continue year after year to produce a good fleece and that may be up to £20.00 per annum per fleece. And once it goes to the abattoir you have lost that.
If I could just have a point of clarification on the RDS, You spoke about the Alternative Energy Advisor. I am correct, am I not, in thinking that advisor is not just for the Camp and whatever it is for the whole of the Islands?
PR: Just for clarification, I think the Rural Development Strategy Steering Group came up with the concept and I now believe we are looking at the Director of Public Works taking on the role of recruitment for that post and they would not only give advice to the Camp. They would to Stanley residents as well. Thank you for asking that.