‘Demise of the tillage sector began with the completion of the beet sector’
Beet was a hot topic in the ‘Future of the Tillage Sector in Ireland’ report, which was published earlier this week.
And, the report was not received well by BEET Ireland – a group which is working to develop the beet industry once again in this country.
Fine Gael TD Pat Deering, who also fills the role of chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, stated that a feasibility study needed to be carried out on the potential of a beet industry in Ireland. He made the comments at the launch of the report on Wednesday (November 22).
“There has been a lot of people, with a lot of enthusiasm, who want to see it back. I would love to see it back coming from that part of the country. I think we need to have another look at the situation and system at the moment to see where it is.
We recommend that there be a new feasibility study done. The last amount of work that was done is now three, four or five-years-old.
“We’re starting from a very low base; there’s no industry and no facilities. There’s nothing at the moment compared to where we were previously.
“But, initially the demise of the tillage sector ironically began with the completion of the beet sector. It would be a huge help and it hasn’t been replaced.
“While there’s challenges in it, I think it’s worth another look at to see where it is at the moment.”
BEET Ireland’s stance
Chris Harmon, the finance director of BEET Ireland, spoke to AgriLand after the publication of the report.
Harmon stated that BEET Ireland wanted to clarify some of the figures in the report. It should be noted that BEET Ireland had no input into the document.
“The report mentions that EU sugar production will increase by roughly 20% over the marketing year 2016/2017. The figure is actually 16.3% based on the European Commission’s report.”
Harmon stated that – because quotas were on their way out – the acreage of sugar grown declined for two years prior to their abolition.
“The land devoted to sugar production in Europe has been on the decline since 2014/2015, in anticipation of the quota system changing.
“When you look at 2014/2015 – and ignore 2015/2016 and 2016/2017 – the 2017/2018 area devoted to sugar production is only up 5% on 2014/2015 figures.
It’s not accurate to say that there has been a huge increase in sugar production in Europe. There’s a correction, from two years of decline, in sugar production in Europe.
“The area devoted to sugar production in Europe is up about 5% on 2014/2015; 5% is nothing in the overall scheme of things.”
Harmon also stated that EU sugar exports are low because of the quotas that were in place. These quotas were abolished on September 30 this year.
The report mentions that Europe only exports 8% of its sugar. It’s that level because there are WTO trade restrictions placed on Europe in terms of exporting sugar outside of the EU.
“Because there was a quota system protecting European sugar producers, the WTO restricted the amount of sugar exported from Europe.
“So it’s not quite correct to say that Europe only exports a small proportion of its sugar because Europe only exports this amount because it was banned from exporting anything above that figure.
Because of the removal of quotas Europe can now export as much sugar as it wants internationally and it will do so.