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Minister Coughlan meets Commissioner Fischer Boel in Brussels

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan TD, today met Commissioner Fischer Boel in Brussels to discuss the draft Council Regulations for sugar reform and the submission for Commission approval of increased aid for farm waste management.

Sugar

The Minister had sought the meeting to discuss a number of detailed aspects of the sugar reform proposals arising from the recently published draft Council Regulations. The need to await the opinion of the European Parliament in January had delayed the process of finalization and adoption of the Council Regulations, and the Minister said she believed it was important, at this stage, to provide growers and the sugar industry with as much clarity as possible.

Following the meeting, Minister Coughlan announced that, subject to adoption of the Regulations, she intended to fix the reference period for the single payment compensation for sugar beet growers as the three year average of the individual farmers' contracted tonnage of beet for the 2001, 2002 and 2004 marketing years. These years are considered to be the most advantageous for sugar beet growers. These payments to growers, which will commence this year, will amount to approximately €123 million over the next seven years.

Minister Coughlan confirmed also that the requirement to deliver beet in the year preceding the year of quota renunciation in order to qualify for restructuring aid has now been removed from the draft Council Regulations. This provides flexibility for the Member State which the Minister had sought.

The Minister said the Commission clarified that sugar produced in the first year of the reform will be liable for the restructuring levy, but in the event of the quota being renounced for the second year, the levy will not be payable in that and subsequent years.

Minister Coughlan said that the total compensation available to Ireland to enable the sector adapt to the reform regime will be in excess of €310 million. The Minister said that decisions on other aspects of the compensation package will be made in due course in accordance with the Council and Commission Regulations when adopted.

Farm Waste Management Scheme

On the question of approval for increases in the investment aid for farm waste management, the Minister outlined the importance of these measures to the Commission and the very considerable commitment by the Irish exchequer (€43 million) for this year alone. She impressed on the Commission the need for an early decision.

9 February 2006

Date Released: 09 February 2006