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Portfolio Report of the Hon Mrs Phyl Rendell, MLA (27/3)

Portfolio Report of the Hon Mrs Phyl Rendell, MLA

Thank you Mr Speaker. I am going to speak today about Natural Resources. The fishery is particularly topical at the moment as there is a lot of fishing effort going on and it is absolutely key to our economy. I will also touch on Agriculture. I will mention FIMCO but will not report fully on it. But I will take the opportunity to report fully at the next Assembly when it is my turn to do a portfolio when the export season has ended and I will touch briefly on the Rural Development Strategy.

The fishing effort is pretty much a bleak activity in the Falkland Islands Conservation Zone at the moment. We have 125 vessels fishing and there is around 15 Refers and vessels in Berkley Sound for transportation operations currently. A pre-season survey of the Deritutas Gahi or Loligo fishery took place in mid-February. The result showed a reasonable bio-mass of squid although catches were quite average during the first three weeks of the season. Catches have increased recently and as reported on the radio with the blustery day of the Standard Chartered Bank Stanley Marathon on Sunday, there was a recording of the highest daily catch of Loligo since the year 2000. So certainly in this century we have had the highest catch. That was in fact 1,102.3 tonnes for the day or an average catch per vessel of 68.9 tonnes.

The Illex fishery is proceeding steadily and most activities taking place in the northern areas of the FICS and the FOCS. And again the core conditions may have impacted on the extent of the Squids southern migration but we are looking forward to that migration and the ships and the vessels will move further into our zone.

In terms of Harbour Control movements in Port William and Stanley harbour have been restricted during the approach of the Noble Frontier barge. And I phoned FISHOPS this morning and they reported that the barge should be coming into Port William at Midday today (Thursday) and the plan is for it to float into Stanley Harbour on Friday and be attached to the temporary pontoons. So its quite an exciting day for all of us to see that new facility and that investment coming into the Falklands.

There has been quite a reasonable amount of activity on FIPASS including transhipments of containers of fish both by the number of vessels and by the number of companies.

The Honourable Ian Hansen, who is not here today  he and I made a visit to Fortunas Brown Trout fish farm at Moody Brook a few weeks ago. And we have also been to Fitzroy and have seen the cages in the creek there where the brown trout are being grown to commercial size. In addition Fortuna will be constructing a processing plant here in Stanley.

Both of us were really impressed with the investment being made by Fortuna and also the project management being carried out by Simon Hardcastle. We could see that there is huge potential for the growth of fish farming and for Brown Trout in particular and that this could expand into the Camp and be another source of revenue and a new industry for the Camp. So we really are watching that project with great interest and congratulate those for having the vision, foresight and the courage to invest in that business.

Finally on the Natural Resources Department, there have been a couple of appointments made recently. Daniel Fowler has been recruited to the Post of Bio-Security Officer in the Veterinary Section and Dr Michael Brass has taken up the post of Stock Assessment Scientist in the Fisheries Department.

Like many of us, the Natural Resources Department is hosting Year 10 Students. And there are 3 at the Natural Resources Department this week and the Director Dr John Barton hopes that they will be the future movers and shakers of that Department.

I will now just turn to Agriculture and speak to what has been going on at that Department. There was a very successful National Stud Flock Ram Sale On the 8th of March. All the stock on offer were sold on the day and the highest prices were on the young A. I. Polwarth  Marinos.

It has continued to be quite a challenging season for agriculture with cool conditions which are tending to put everything back from crops to the quality of stock. And in some cases this has meant there has been some condition issues with stock going to the Abattoir.

As I mentioned earlier FIMCO will complete its export season by the end of April  early May and I will report to the House on the season when that is completed. When my Colleagues and I were at meetings at Goose Green and Fox Bay this last weekend farmers expressed concerns about the use of the Hennessey probe for fat scoring and we had some very technical discussions at those public meetings but there is concern out there and I think we made it very clear that this is an issue for the producers and FIMCO. It is not something for MLAs to become involved in unless we feel there are some major issues. At the moment I think the two need to speak together  the new industry and the producers  and see if things can improve. And lets hope for a better season next year and we need to monitor and see that the two sides are communicating with each other.

At a recent Agricultural Advisory Committee there were several matters discussed but in particular it was agreed that the Department of Agriculture would conduct a number of workshops this winter and the subjects for those workshops will include the national Stud Flock. I noted that we had a high demand on those rams. We sold them and perhaps we need to be producing more.

I also mention beef production because there is a gap in the beef market and more beef could be sold.

Also I mention the control of CLA or boils  not the most pleasant subject to report on but we do have many large sheep farming nations that have an issue with boils and that impacts when the meat goes into the Abattoir. And we need to look at ways of trying to minimise and reduce the spread of that disease.

The Farm improvement programme  we need to continually review to see if it is relevant. And lastly we also will be supporting farmers with body condition scoring on their stock so they can check their stock closely before sending them into the abattoir so they have got that condition on them that is required.

Meanwhile the Veterinary section continues to deal with a number of import and export issues. At the moment they are dealing with a matter of importing day-old chicks and we are hoping they will arrive in the Islands shortly to be able to support the production of eggs in the Islands.

Lastly (the second lastly) Agriculture  the Rural Business Association are having their agricultural show on Saturday at Goose Green and I hope that as many people as possible will go and have a jolly good day out.

The Rural Development Strategy  a number of initiatives have been agreed by the steering group. One of those was the provision for a mechanic to set up business on West Falkland to deliver services to people on West Falkland. I am pleased to say that Dave Toulson has been appointed and will set up a business shortly at Fox Bay so thats a good step forward.

Also we are dealing with the appointment of an Alternative Energy Advisor not only to advise people on Alternative Energy in the Camp but also here in Stanley. And work is on-going on the role of that post holder with the help of the Public Works Department.

As part of the development of Fox Bay as the Islands first Rural Enterprise Zone, the steering group is reviewing the infrastructure and the needs of that village. And there have already been improvements made to the water supply and work is currently underway to establish the potential for the old Managers House to become a focal point for new business and community facilities. And this could include a space for the Doctor when there is a visit also play areas and perhaps a new business premises for people.

The RDS has funds allocated for projects in the Camp and I am pleased to report that through the FIDC who manage those funds around £37,000.00 has been awarded recently to two applicants. The applicants have to match or provide more than the grant given to them by the RDS. And from those most recent applications, I know a total of £120,000.00 has been invested into the Camp.

The Policy Unit is working on behalf of the Rural Development Strategy on a questionnaire on tax incentives for Camp. And thats going to be circulated next week. And the questionnaire which I did brief people on at Goose Green and Fox Bay  we will be seeking views on such things as tax incentives for new businesses tax incentives for additional employment of staff in existing businesses and also on alternative energy investment and tax incentives on investment on plant and machinery and infrastructure. So we really hope we get a wide number of views back and people will complete the questionnaire not only in Camp but also in Stanley and that the Chamber of Commerce members and those running businesses in Stanley can give us their views as to whether such tax incentives will be an attraction to their investing in the Camp.

The post of Co-ordinator for the Rural Development Strategy is currently not filled due to changes in the FIDC structure but it is expected that this will be addressed at the next Board meeting in April.

Meanwhile I would like to thank Nuala Knight for all her work in support of the Rural Development Strategy Steering Group without a co-ordinator they are a little bit headless. So I really do thank her for her work over the last few years.

Thank you Mr Speaker.

The Debate:

BE: Mr Speaker, Honourable members, I would like to thank my Honourable Colleague for her detailed presentation. On the subject of FIMCO, I think it is a very important concern for Camp and very important to Stanley and I think we all want it to get back into a profitable situation. But would she not agree with me that it is vitally important that FIMCO be cautious about increasing prices to the local market such that we dont arrive at a situation where consumers will end up buying imported beef because it is cheaper than the local product?

PR: Thank you for that question. I think I addressed this at the Assembly before last when I reported on my portfolios and I repeat that its really a matter of balance. If you want fresh meat in the shops in Stanley of a high quality then you have to pay farmers a realistic amount of money to produce animals of that high quality. And that means growing crops and doing many things and investing quite a lot of money to produce quality beef under age 3. So there has to be a balance. If you dont want that quality in the shops then people can buy from the Farm Gate but I do feel that the general feeling is that quality is important and that it is affordable. Compared to other parts of the world, FIMCO meat is extremely reasonably priced.

MS: Mr Speaker, Honourable members, there has been a significant and I think very encouraging development in the fishery in the last couple of seasons and the number of Illex vessels transhipping at FIPASS. And it is my understanding that the next two voyages of the Scout northbound are absolutely full up and that is a tremendous development for the Falklands. It brings with it significantly greater economic benefit. And it appears that its now economic to tranship Illex by containers as it is by Reefer vessels. So I wonder if the Honourable member shares my concern about the ability of FIPASS to cope with this in the longer term. I wonder if she shares my view that there might be a need to develop further port resources for that?

PR: Thank you very much for that question. I am delighted that you highlighted the matter of Illex coming into Stanley and being transhipped on FIPASS. One of my other portfolio responsibilities is SAAS and I would like to report on that in a few months time when we have a firm agreement in place for the long-term future of SAAS which I am quite confident we will have. It is just a matter of time in getting that together.

We had the first shipment of Illex last season and it went extremely well and the owners of the vessel were really impressed as how quickly the transhipment was conducted. It was faster than transhipping on to reefers in Berkley Sound.

I hear his concern about the space on FIPASS and I think the fishing industry have raised that a number of times. I think the good news is that we have a Noble Energy barge floating through the narrows today that will ensure that when it is in place all the oil industry will operate off that facility and wont be working off FIPASS which since about 2010 we have had a very active oil industry using FIPASS as well. So thats going to take the pressure off for the coming years.

But I have no problems with supporting long-term development of port facilities if they are cost-effective. And I think we need to monitor the growth of the Industry and the growth of activity with fish being transhipped from our ports which, of course, is good for our economy and we need to plan ahead for that perhaps after the life of the Noble Barge is over.

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