Agri Aware says losses due to ‘extremely difficult’ Covid-19 circumstances

Agri-food education body Agri Aware has posted losses of more than €318,000 for the 2019 financial year.

This compares to an operating profit of €55,375 for 2018.

According to financial documents seen by AgriLand, which were approved at a board meeting of the trust in September, the retained earnings for the 2019 financial year were €66,670.

This compares to a figure of €385,047 for 2018.

Expenses remained the same

Despite the major drop in earnings in 2019, costs at the body remained largely the same with the biggest expenditure being on wages and salaries – €201,951.

A short-term loan facility of €84,000 was also drawn down by Agri Aware in 2019; however, no additional security was pledged by the trust in respect of that loan.

Reason for losses

When contacted by AgriLand in relation to the reasons for such a substantial loss in 2019, chairman of Agri Aware Alan Jagoe explained that there were two main reasons for the current financial circumstances.

He said: “The ‘Many Hats, One CAP’ campaign did not run in tandem with our accounting year. €220,000 in income from the EU’s CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] programme [EU funding] was accounted for in the 2018 accounts.

“Secondly, there is a bad debt provision of €64,000. This is in relation to patron donations not received that had been invoiced and is not bad debt in relation to services provided by Agri Aware.”

EU funding

Jagoe adds: “Agri Aware was successfully awarded CAP funding in 2020 but decided not to draw down the funding due to the onset of the global Covid-19 pandemic which would have made running CAP project events such as Open Farm and a CAP cinema advert extremely difficult and not feasible in 2020.

Agri Aware’s decision to not draw the CAP funding will not negatively impact Agri Aware if the organisation decides to apply for EU funding in the future.

In 2018, €460,605.37 was granted to Agri Aware by the EU for the ‘Many Hats, One CAP’ campaign. In 2018 the EU funding figure was €448,593.01 for the ‘My land – your land’ campaign.

Agri Aware says it has had to adapt its information model in respect of the current global pandemic, moving many of its communications campaigns online.

“Agri Aware has moved a lot of activity online this year such as its AgCredible programme, its healthy eating schools project, Incredible Edibles and Virtual Farm Walk and Talk aimed at fifth and sixth Year Agriculture Science students have all been hosted on social media since March of this year,” said Jagoe.

Governance

Agri Aware is a charity and says it is complying with the charities code.

Alan Jagoe said: “Agri Aware completed a strategic review of activities in 2019 and we have put in place a number of processes and protocols from a governance perspective.”

There were seven resignations from the Board of Directors according to the Companies Registration Office (CRO) filing of June 2020, while former executive director Deirdre O’Shea resigned from her position in February of this year.

Tipperary native Marcus O’Halloran was appointed to replace O’Shea as executive director.

Agri Aware says directors who stepped down had done so at different periods prior to June 2020.

With regard to the resignations, Alan Jagoe said: “Regarding the directors who have stepped down, these directors had finished their terms over the past few years and have subsequently been removed from our CRO filing.

These directors did not step down as a result of this financial loss.

“It has been normal practice for Agri Aware directors to serve on the board for a period and step down after a time to allow new directors to join and bring new ideas, knowledge and expertise to the board,” he said.

History of Agri Aware

​In 1996, a number of leading agri-food businesses identified the need for an independent body to provide the general public with information and education on the importance of agriculture and food to the Irish economy.

Among the organisations who have an input are Bord Bia, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) and FBD.

The 2020 audited accounts of Agri Aware are due to be approved at a board meeting in December 2020 and will be presented at the annual general meeting (AGM) of the trust in February 2021.