Sugar beet growers to be reimbursed following levy miscalculation

Sugar beet growers and the former sugar processor Greencore are set to be reimbursed following a miscalculation of levies.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, confirmed the news in response to a recent parliamentary question from Fianna Fail TD Kevin O’Keeffe.

Deputy O’Keeffe asked the minister about his plans to reimburse money to sugar beet growers and processors for the years 1991 to 2001 in view of the 2017 judgement of the European Court of Justice on the excess levies paid.

In response, Minister Creed explained that the miscalculation has been corrected and that payments will be backdated.

The minister said: “On February 9, 2017, the European Court of Justice delivered a judgement declaring invalid the commission regulations fixing the production levies and the coefficient for calculating the additional levy in the sugar sector for the marketing year 1999/2000 and for the marketing year 2000/2001.

“The court ruled that the commission was incorrect in calculating the annual levies set for the period in question.

The court also found that the method used by the commission to fix the levies was incorrect, because it led to an over-estimation of the costs to be covered and consequently overcharged Greencore and the growers.

“The levies for the marketing years in question, set by EU regulation, provided for a self-financing system for the sugar sector by means of flexible production levies.

“Under EU regulations, the common organisation of the markets in the sugar sector was based on the operation of a quota system on the principle that producers should bear full financial responsibility for the losses incurred each marketing year due to disposing of surplus sugar over the production quota allocated,” he said.

A new council regulation fixing the production levies and the coefficient for calculating the additional levy in the sugar sector for the 1999/2000 marketing year and fixing the production levies in the sugar sector for the 2000/2001 marketing year – giving effect to the court decision – were recently approved by the Council of Agriculture Ministers, the minister added.

The former sugar processor, Greencore, and the sugar beet growers for the years in question will be reimbursed at a rate yet to be determined.

“My department is currently assessing the implications of this decision. No further details are available yet on the level of refund or the number of recipients,” Minister Creed concluded.