EU commits to reviewing sugar regime - after 2015

The campaign by former beet growers to revive the Irish sugar industry received some encouragement this week when the EU's Agriculture Commissioner confirmed that the current sugar quota system would be reviewed.

The campaign by former beet growers to revive the Irish sugar industry received some encouragement this week when the EU's Agriculture Commissioner confirmed that the current sugar quota system would be reviewed.

At a meeting with Irish MEPs and farmers in Brussels, Commissioner Dacian Ciolos said the future of the sugar regime would form part of next year's debate on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.

However EU officials also pointed out that the current regime banning Ireland from producing sugar for food would remain in place until October 2015.

The spokesperson added that in the meantime, there is nothing to prevent Irish growers from producing sugar for use in the chemical sector, for example in the manufacture of bioethanol.

Ireland East MEP Mairead McGuinness, who facilitated the meeting, said there was "no clarity about the Commission's thinking".

However she said it had been productive in that it had afforded Irish farmers the opportunity to send a "very clear message" to the Commission that they want to grow sugar beet for sugar production and are angry that the industry was closed down.

Fianna Fil MEP Liam Aylward, called for further clarification from the Commission on the decision to review the current quota system.

"Irish farmers should be informed where they stand and what options are open to them; the possibilities for reopening this industry in Ireland should be ruled in or ruled out now, and not dragged out," he said.