I would like to give the Deputy the background to this issue. The EU Sugar Regime underwent a radical reform in 2005 following major EU decisions to restructure the industry. A temporary restructuring scheme was introduced with the aim of reducing EU sugar production. Greencore, the holder of the entire Irish sugar quota, availed of this voluntary scheme, dismantled its facilities and ceased production in 2006. Ireland secured €353 million as part of the reform package of which €220 million went to beet growers, €127million to Greencore and €6 million to machinery contractors. There is no mechanism under the present EU Regulations to allow for the re-instatement of the sugar quota for Ireland.
I know you will be aware that in 2011 I met with two separate groups which had conducted feasibility studies, into the possibility of establishing a new sugar/bioethanol facility in the country. I understand from figures published by the interested groups who are investigating the possibility of building a new facility, that the overall capital cost costs involved could range from €250 million to €400 million, depending on what type of facility will be constructed.
I have previously indicated that any venture to develop a combined sugar/bioethanol production facility would have to be a viable commercial proposition, and supported by a business case which is sufficiently robust to attract the funding from investors for the very substantial capital investment required. I am pleased to confirm to the Deputy that at the recent Council of Agriculture Ministers, which I chaired under Ireland’s EU Presidency, I secured agreement as part of the overall CAP reform package to abolish sugar quotas by 30 September 2017. This agreement removes, with effect from 1st October 2017, the quota barrier for operators in Ireland or other Member States wishing to re-establish a sugar industry. This agreement has been welcomed by those who are interested in seeking to re-establish a sugar industry here.