“Having participated on the statements on the Irish sugar industry reforms on Wednesday, I was delighted to get the chance to debate this very important on Thursday. I was disappointed, however, that neither the Tanaiste, Mary Coughlan TD who agreed to the European Commission’s sugar restructuring plan in 2005 nor the Minister for Agriculture were present at the debate.
“The Court of Auditors report raises some very serious questions about the success of the EU sugar restructuring package. Clearly it has been very bad for Ireland, we lost a viable sugar industry which had been operating successfully for 80 years. Last year we spend €99 million on sugar imports when we used to be self-sufficient in this area.
“From the report it looks like the restructuring has not necessarily been good for Europe either. The Court of Auditors note that the sugar industry has in fact become less, not more, competitive as a result of the restructuring. They also not that price decreases have not been passed on to the consumer.
“In light of the report findings, I believe that the Government and European Commission should look at reinstating a sugar quota here. The EU biofuels directive mandates that member states begin replacing fossil fuels with biofuels. A sugar industry here could be used for ethanol production and help meet our biofuel targets. It has also been suggested to me that it could also be used for electricity production and a district heating system
“I believe that a feasibility study of the possibility of re-opening the sugar industry here should be conducted. If this is viable then Europe could be approached regarding a quota reinstatement.