Irish sugar beet growers and contractors are to receive 32% of the money available for restructuring, following the decision of Greencore to close down its one remaining factory in the Republic, at Mallow, Co Cork.
The decision by Irish agriculture minister Mary Coughlan means that the country’s 3700 growers will share out some €40m out of the total of €145m available to Ireland under last year’s EU sugar reform. Another €7m will go to contractors.
The rest will go to Greencore, Irish Sugar’s parent company, to meet the cost of decommissioning plant, laying off and retraining workers and ensuring proper pension provision.
The allocation to growers and contractors is considerably higher than the minimum 10% stipulated in the EU regulations, and is based on the findings of an independent expert’s report.
But growers’ representatives are angry that they have not been given more.
Irish Farmers’ Association president Padraig Walshe said the decision was “one of the most flawed decisions ever presided over by this government”.
While growers had lost everything, the minister had transferred €100m to the balance sheet of Greencore, while completely disregarding the massive windfall gains that will accrue to Greencore from property development on its now vacant sites.
“The reality is, the minister backed big business against farm families which was the final insult after 80 years of growing beet.”
But Mrs Coughlan was quick to point out that growers were already set to receive €123m over the next seven years as compensation for the drop in EU sugar prices. This will form part of their single farm payments.
She also confirmed that all the €44m in a separate diversification fund will be targeted at growers.
The restructuring fund is being paid for by a levy on continuing processors in other member states.
The restructuring aid to growers will be paid in two instalments, the first of 40% in June 2007 and the second of 60% in February 2008.