Thursday, 26 May 2005
Department of Agriculture and Food
Sugar Beet Production
Question 118: To ask the Minister for Agriculture and Food the Government's plans to safeguard sugar beet producers here in view of the recent changes being proposed by the European Commission in the reform of the sugar regime; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17777/05]
The EU Commission outlined its initial ideas for reform of the EU sugar regime in a communication to the Council and the European Parliament last July. The communication was the subject of technical discussions at Council working group level in Brussels and there was a policy debate at the Council's Agriculture Ministers meeting in November.
The European Commission's initial ideas for reform would, if adopted, have serious repercussions for sugar beet growing and processing in this country and I have made it clear in discussions in the Council of Ministers that they are unacceptable. Ireland is in a group of ten member states with shared concerns about the Commission's proposals in their current form and we made a joint ministerial submission to the Commission outlining these concerns.
The next step will be the publication of formal legislative proposals by the Commission which are expected to be published on 22 June. The recent ruling by the WTO appellate body will certainly add to the pressure for reform and there have been suggestions that when the reform proposals emerge they may be even more severe than originally anticipated. Therefore, we do not underestimate the scale of the challenge facing us when the reform proposals come before the Council of Ministers in the autumn. In the forthcoming negotiations on the reform proposals, my overall objective will be to ensure that the future shape of the EU sugar regime is consistent with the continuation of an efficient sugar beet growing and processing industry in this country.