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Sugar quota row upsets Irish plans

Opposition to the proposed scrapping of sugar quotas is building across Europe, with farmer bodies and some EU member states calling for the current regime to continue.

The EU Commission has stated that it favours the removal of quotas when the current sugar regime ends in 2015.

However, in a move which will worry groups seeking to revive the Irish sugar industry, the European farmer representative body Copa-Cogeca has come out against the abolition of quotas.

Copa-Cogeca secretary-general Pekka Pesonen has called for EU sugar production quotas to be extended until at least 2020 instead of being phased out in 2015 as the commission has proposed.

Mr Pesonen's comments came in the wake of last week's meeting of EU farm ministers, where France also expressed reservations over the proposed reform of the sugar regime.

France has called for the retention of quotas and although the sugar regime was only briefly discussed at last week's meeting, it is understood that this stance was supported by a number of other member states. Further evaluation of the EU sugar sector and of the sugar reform package was suggested by other states.

Ireland is opposed to any continuation of the sugar quota regime and Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney has backed plans by Beet Ireland and the Irish Sugar Beet Bio-Refinery Group to revive the sugar processing industry in Ireland.

Such a move would require the abolition of quotas or the allocation by the commission of additional quota to Ireland should the current regime be extended.

During his recent visit to Ireland, EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos was adamant that sugar quotas would be scrapped as part of the CAP reform proposals. If Ireland wished to restart sugar production at that stage it would be free to do so, the commissioner said.

The EU is just 85pc self-sufficient in sugar, with 5m tonnes imported each year. It is estimated that restarting sugar processing in Ireland would cost €350m.

Meanwhile, Cork farmers hoping to grow 6,000ac of sugar beet for digestors in Northern Ireland have been notified that the Ecoventi-led project has been shelved until 2013.

Indo Farming