The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisation (NFFO) says an announcement is expected within the next 24/48 hours on a package of support that will help self-employed share-fishermen impacted by the coronavirus.
A proposal on the issue has been submitted to the Treasury for decision but whilst no guarantees are being given, there are high expectations that this new package will fill some of the gaps in the economic support measures announced so far.
Self-employed share-fishermen are not eligible for the support given to wage earners (80% of earnings up to £2500 per month) and so it is imperative that the government acts urgently to fill this gap.
The announcement on share fishermen is likely to be part of a package on measures for the self-employed more generally.
The NFFO has urged the government to act, as markets fail under the impact of reduced demand. Most export markets, the hospitality sector, and fish counters in some supermarkets have closed down. Transport links are affected.
The government and industry organisations like the NFFO, have a shared goal during this health emergency, of keeping businesses in the catching and supply chain intact, so that they can thrive again when the crisis is passed.
The support measures have been developed at pace, parallel to the increasing stringent restrictions to achieve physical distancing between people to reduce transmission of the disease. Measures announces so far have included:
- Direct support for the hospitality sector
- Interest free loans to help businesses survive the crisis. The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), which has been established to provide support for small businesses, is now open for applications. This may be of some but probably limited value in the fishing sector
- Wage support measures (as above)
- Food production workers have been designated as key workers, acknowledging that food security is a priority and that where possible the links in the supply chain from vessel to consumer should remain intact. Whilst limiting the spread of the virus is paramount and finding ways of limiting risk all-important, people require food
Restrictive measures to prevent transmission of COVID-19 are running in parallel to economic support measures. Government announcements are made daily. There is an obvious gap in terms of support for the self-employed. It is understood that a support package for the self-employed is now with the treasury for approval. Defra, urged by the NFFO and others, has made the case to include self-employed share-fishermen in the package. We are confident that the case has been made and understood.
In the meantime, the Federation is engaged in the development of a wide range of support measures through government, industry organisations and the charity sector.