A conservative EU sugar beet production level estimated in the last quota year

In 2016/2017, EU sugar beet production is estimated 5% above last year, at 107 million tonnes, according to latest data from the European Commission.

It says sugar beet sowings have been conservative, with a 2.4% increase in area compared to 2015/2016 but a 7% decline compared to the five year average.

Farmers were advised not to surpass quota too much in the light of the end of the quota regime in October 2017.

According to the Commission, yields so far are estimated slightly above the 5 year average (+1%). The status differs significantly between Member States. While in France, the sugar beet harvest is likely to gain from the above average rainfall, it might cause problems in Belgium and the Netherlands as a result of flooding.

However, crops on well-drained soils can actually benefit from the currently high soil-moisture levels. For Poland the cold temperature at the beginning of the growing season limits the yield potential with average yields expected.

Assuming average sugar content at this point in the campaign, EU sugar production is forecasted at 16.3 million tonnes (+10% from 2015/2016), the Commission says.

The below average white sugar production will further limit the availability on the EU sugar market. The expected effect is twofold; EU white sugar prices are assumed to further increase and imports would likely increase.

Meanwhile, the Commission says imports are expected to be around 3.5m tonnes (this might require measures to be taken to increase sugar imports). Nevertheless, the end stock would be very low at 0.4 million tonnes, it says.

This level could be higher, if EU exports are considerably below the WTO export limit, which will apply one more year and ends in 2017.

Sugar Beet in Ireland

It is up to commercial interests to move forward plans to reestablish sugar production in Ireland, according to the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed.

It comes as the new Programme for a Partnership Government makes clear that “State enterprise bodies will be asked to examine any substantial business plans related to rebuilding the industry with a view to considering appropriate State supports”.

The Minister said that prior to the last CAP reform negotiations my predecessor met with two separate groups which had conducted feasibility studies into the possibility of establishing a new sugar/bioethanol processing facility in the country.

He said the figures published by the interested groups who are investigating the possibility of building a new facility, indicated that the overall capital costs involved could range from €250 million to €400 million, depending on what type of facility would be constructed.

Both groups were informed at the time that any venture to develop a combined sugar/bioethanol production facility in Ireland, 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.

Quotas

An agreement was reached as part of the overall CAP reform in June 2013, to abolish all sugar quotas by 30 September 2017. This agreement removes, with effect from 1 October 2017, the current EU quota barrier for operators in Ireland or other Member States, wishing to re-establish a sugar industry.

According to the Minister, at the time, this agreement was welcomed by those parties who are interested in seeking to re-establish a sugar industry here.

“It is now up to any commercial interests who wish to establish a sugar plant to move the project forward and to garner sufficient commercial and financial support to turn their plans into a viable reality,” he said.

The Minister confirmed that officials in his Department have met with the interested parties a number of times since 2011 to hear from them how the projects are developing and to give assistance and advice that has been sought by the interested parties. The location of any new sugar beet processing facility is a matter for the interested parties.

“The location of any new sugar beet processing facility is a matter for the interested parties,” he said.

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