EU: Mallow sugar factory closure was unnecessary

THE closure of Ireland’s last sugar factory in Mallow, Co Cork, with the loss of 240 jobs may not have been necessary, according to a report from the EU Court of Auditors.

In a damning analysis of the EU’s €11 billion sugar industry reform four years ago, the auditors found the European Commission was working off old figures for Ireland that did not take into account Greencore’s consolidation as a result of closing its Carlow plant.

It also found the EU is having to import sugar because an insufficient amount is being produced in member states and lower costs are not being passed on to consumers.

Irish member of the Court of Auditors Eoin O’Shea said it appears the Mallow plant — which was worth €150 million annually to Irish farmers — should not have been closed.

“Without the sugar reform the Mallow plant would still exist and farmers would still be growing crops to supply it.” he said.

The EU sugar industry was voluntarily reformed after the World Trade Organisation (WTO) declared it illegal because of massive subsidies to factories that artificially kept the price up to three times higher than on the world markets.

IFA deputy president Eddie Downey said they had warned the livelihoods of beet growers would be sacrificed.

The EU paid €310m compensation to the Irish industry. This is in addition to an average of €30,000 per grower to help them diversify into other areas.

The Department of Agriculture, that negotiated the compensation package, laid responsibility at the door of Greencore.

Fianna Fáil deputy Ned O’Keeffe said the government was bulldozed into the closure by the WTO and the European Commission.

Fine Gael’s Agriculture spokesman, Andrew Doyle, accused the Government of “being asleep at the wheel” during the negotiations.

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