Minister Coveney thanked Bord Bia, who organised the Irish participation, for their successful efforts over the year which saw seafood exports increase in 2010 by 18% to €365m. The Minister said that "Irish Seafood exporters are indigenous businesses with significant scope for expansion who have an important role to play on the road to National economic recovery".
The Minister added that "it is very encouraging that our seafood exports increased by 18% last year. Over 70% of our Seafood exports are sold in EU Markets and hence it is important to see such a strong representation from the Irish Seafood Exporters here at this trade expo, the major annual seafood trade event within Europe. There are more exhibitors this year than in 2010. The Irish seafood sector has exciting potential for further development on the domestic and international markets. If we want to continue towards a high margin export strategy we need to co-operate with each other, continue to differentiate, innovate and develop products based on customer feedback and market research".
On Ireland's international reputation for wholesome, fresh and natural seafood, produced in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner, the Minister said "this is a key selling point for Irish seafood companies and together with Bord Bia's marketing expertise, and the co-operation and determination of our seafood industry I am confident that we will have a more vibrant and successful sector in the years to come".
The Minister also used the opportunity of his visit to Brussels to meet with the European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Maire Geoghegan- Quinn. The Minister said "I see the Commissioner as an important ally for Ireland in the Commission and in Europe. I am anxious to develop a strong working relationship with her".
The Commissioner's directorate is responsible for the €142 billion budget of the new Common Strategic Framework 2014-2020 (CSF) Programme, which will combine the funding of a number of current competitive research programmes into a single strategic research vehicle. The Minister went on to say that from an Irish perspective "it is vital that the expertise, previous championing and contribution to the development of research based policy formulation in Europe materialises itself into being successful in the tendering processes in new research programmes. I outlined some of the work of the Marine Institute on the EU front in recent times and the opportunities that it and other Irish research bodies can realise using the expertise and experience built up. I also used the occasion to brief Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn on the major policy challenges we are facing in agriculture and fisheries, particularly the reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy(CAP) and the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The Minister outlined his strong concerns relating to the proposed EU Mercosur Trade Agreement and its impact on the agri food sector in Ireland".