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Ferris calls for Minister to safeguard sugar beet sector

8 December, 2005

The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture, Martin Ferris TD has called on the Minister for Agriculture Mary Coughlan to be more proactive in safeguarding the future of the Irish sugar beet industry. Deputy Ferris was challenging the Minister over the manner in which the Irish Government had agreed to EU measures that will inflict damage on the sector, the failure to use the state share in Greencore, and it’s stance on grant aid for sugar beet as an energy crop.

Deputy Ferris asked Minister Coughlan if she agreed with the judgment of her colleague Minister of State Browne, '- that the decision of the EU to drastically cut the support price for beet by 36% was the best possible deal'?  Or would she agree with others that the decision has sounded the death knell of a sector that has been successful here for over 70 years, and that the EU decision flies in the face of the commitment to preserve the European model of farming, based on the family farm. Would she further agree that the sugar beet sector is being offered as a sacrificial lamb in a trade deal that appears only to have bad implications for Irish farmers?

"In a recent reply to a written question of mine, the Minister stated that her Special Share in Greencore does not allow her to be involved in the business decisions of the company. Would she not agree, however, that the importance of Greencore, and concerns over the company’s plans for its facilities at Carlow and Mallow, places an obligation on her to become actively involved in decisions regarding the future of the company, and the thousands of jobs and producers dependent on it.

"I note that Minister Cowen yesterday announced significant increases in the level of excise relief for the production of biofuels. This is intended to boost the production of biofuels. He also stated that this measure would require approval by the EU as a state aid. Would the Minister agree that this state should also request that the range of energy crops covered by production grants also be extended. And specifically that it ought to include the production of sugar beet as an energy crop. And would she agree that this would provide an alternative that would preserve the sugar beet sector as well as the facilities and jobs at Carlow and Mallow."  ENDS

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