Sugar quota regime to be scrapped in 2017
Beet Ireland hopes to announce plans for processing within a month
A lone sugar beet outside the Greencore Sugar Factory in Carlow, just before it was about to close in 2005. The Beet Ireland group, which has been campaigning to reopen the Irish sugar industry, has said it hopes to announce its chosen site for the processing of sugar beet within the next month or so. Photograph: Alan Betson
The sugar quota regime will end in 2017, according to the latest compromise proposals tabled by the Irish EU presidency yesterday.
The European Commission had proposed scrapping sugar production quotas and minimum sugar beet prices in 2015, but last week the European Parliament voted for sugar quotas to be retained until 2020. However, MEPs included a proposal for a derogation for countries such as Ireland, that had renounced their quotas.
In 2006 the EU introduced a temporary restructuring scheme for the sugar industry, offering incentives for less-efficient countries to exit the sector. Sugar processor Greencore said the changes to the sugar regime would result in unacceptable losses and it shut its Mallow facility with the loss of 320 jobs. It received €127 million in compensation, while beet growers got €220 million and machinery contractors received €6 million. A report by the European Court of Auditors in 2010 found the closure of the factory had been needless because the business was profitable at the time.
Sugar prices soared after the reforms and there have been growing calls for Ireland to re-enter the sector. But countries with large sugar quotas, such as France, have been opposing the ending of the regime.
Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has repeatedly said he would like to see Ireland getting back into the sugar industry. The Beet Ireland group, which has been campaigning to reopen the Irish sugar industry, noted that the proposal to end the sugar quota regime in 2017 was still a draft plan.
Beet Ireland director Pat Cleary said the group never fully believed the regime would come to an end in 2015, but it would welcome an end to quotas in 2017. He said it hoped to announce its chosen site for the processing of sugar beet within the next month or so.