Seanad Éireann - Volume 98 - 15 July, 1982
Sugar Manufacture (Amendment) Bill, 1982: Second Stage.
Question proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”
Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture (Mr. Cowen) Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture (Mr. Cowen)
Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture (Mr. Cowen): The main purpose of the Bill now before the House is a straightforward one in itself. Comhlucht Siúicre Éireann Teoranta are, as Senators will know, in most respects a company like any other. They are incorporated under the Companies Acts, and their liability is limited by shares. However, they are distinguished in law from other companies by the fact that their freedom of action in regulating their affairs is circumscribed by the Sugar Manufacture Acts, 1933 to 1973. This body of legislation obliges the company to deal with a certain number of matters in their memorandum and articles of association in a manner specified by law. These matters include the voting rights attaching to shareholdings in the company, the nomination and election of directors, and the volume of the company's authorised share capital.
It will be apparent to Senators that the main concern of the Oireachtas in enacting this legislation was to provide a framework for sugar production which satisfied two criteria. First of all, the framework had to admit of commercial operation, and had to furnish the yardsticks against which trading performance could be evaluated. Hence, the ready choice of the format of the joint stock company. Secondly, the framework had  to be at once tight and transparent in view of the substantial State interest in the company. Hence the restrictions in the legislation on what, for any other company, would be matters for themselves to settle.
The present Bill, as I have said, has a purpose which is straighforward enough. It is designed, for the most part, to broaden the company's capital base, and to allow them to increase their authorised share capital from its present level of £10 million to a new level of £75 million. This will appear to Senators to be a sudden, not to say dramatic, increase, and I will come back to the reasons underlying it in a moment. Before doing so, however, I think it would be useful to place a number of considerations before the House.
First of all, no one who has had anything to do with the development of argiculture in Ireland can fail to be impressed with the role that the company have played in their 50 years of existence. They have been in the forefront of change and innovation for most, if not all, of the adult lives of most living Irishmen. They have spearheaded the creation of most of the services that make it possible for the agricultural sector of the economy to function. In so doing, they have been a major employer, building on native capital and resources the foundations of a local and regional economy whose effects are felt well beyond the sugar industry itself.
Over those 50 years, the company have turned in a profit on all but a very few occasions. In fact, the majority of those occasions have presented themselves over the past two or three years, and it is in the climate of the past two or three years that the roots of the company's difficulties are to be found.
What those difficulties are has already been the subject of examination and debate in this House. Some 16 months ago, the Seanad debated the affairs of the sugar company, using as a basis an excellent and informative report from the Joint Committe on State-Sponsored Bodies. That report has, I believe, proved to be a vindication of the Joint Committee's establishment. Apart from its clarity and conciseness, it is the starting point of the  review of the company's affairs that has culminated in the Bill which the House is now discussing.
To place clearly on record just what the company's problems are, I think that a brief review of the report's contents and recommendations will be of value to the House. Senators will remember that the Joint Committee began their examination of the company's affairs at a time when a series of inter-related problems were coming to a head. The most prominent of these was an anticipated loss in the year ending September 1980 of substantial proportions.
As the committee noted, the company had been implementing a substantial programme of capital investment and plant renewal since 1975. Total capital investment since 1975 had amounted to £70 million, financed almost entirely from borrowings from commercial financial institutions. The company's purpose in undertaking the investments was to achieve nothing less than the survival of the sugar industry. Plant was obsolescent, and there was a risk that the efficiency of the company's production units would be seriously impaired at a very bad time. The committee's report was unambiguous in pointing out the financial consequences of this state of affairs. It stated unequivocally that large recurrent interest charges were constituting a serious drain on the company's resources.
The debt-equity ratio, the committee noted, was in excess of commercial norms to an unusual degree, and interest charges had to be met from operating profit. The committee pointed out that a large company in the private sector would long since have taken steps to raise additinal capital to correct this state of affairs. The committee accepted that the situation should not continue. They expressly supported the company's view, put to them during their hearings, that some £25 million of new equity capital was needed as a first step. They believed that further calls would have to be made on Exchequer funding in future years in order to ensure the development of a prudent and stable capital structure for the company.
Notwithstanding the company's very real financial problems, the committee  did not feel justified in attributing all of the current difficulties to them. Among the causes of the reversal in the company's fortunes, they identified unfavourable price developments on the cost front, and the effects of the recession on demand in the company's markets. However, the committee made it quite clear that the principal solution lay in Government action to correct the debt-equity imbalance.
As I have said, the committee's report was considered by the Seanad in early 1981, and Senators contributed substantially to the reflections that were going on both in the company and in the Government Departments concerned. The Tánaiste, who was Minister for Agriculture at the time, informed the House that the report was the basis for that reflection, and that he would be inviting the company to put their views to him on the means by which full viability might be restored rapidly to the company.
In May 1981 the company responded. They stressed, as they had to the Joint Committee, the need for new capital. They had three purposes in mind in doing so. First, they emphasised the need to deal with the erosion of the company's financial base brought about by continuing food sector losses, and by the necessary investment being carried out on the sugar side. Secondly, they pressed the need to continue with the modernisation programme. Thirdly, they put the point that the debt-equity ratio had to be brought more into line with commercial norms. For these three reasons, the company asked that their equity capital be brought up to the level of £75 million.
After examination in my Department, the company's response fell to be considered in July 1981 by the Coalition Government. That Government, quite rightly in my view, decided in principle to make new capital available to the company, but reserved a decision on the amount, manner and timing of the capital injection until they obtained the results of an independent examination of the company's financial affairs to be carried out by a firm of consultants. In this way the company's creditors were reassured  as to the Government's intentions, while the hasty commitment of public money, which might not have taken account of all the factors involved, would be avoided.
In March of this year the consultants reported, and, as a result, the Government believe they are now in a position to make a rational and considered response to the company's needs. They have decided therefore to make £30 million available to the company in 1982. They anticipated that the need for further capital may arise over the coming three or four years. Accordingly, they are proposing enabling authority for this in the present Bill, in line with the usual practice for Central Fund issues of this kind.
I will now come back, as I said I would, to the substance of the Bill before the House. I said earlier that the increase in the legal limit of the company's authorised share capital would perhaps strike Senators as sudden and dramatic. It will put the increase into perspective if we recall that the company's authorised share capital has been at £10 million since 1973. In 1973 the company employed fixed assets valued at some £6.3 million. In 1981 that figure was £38 million. As the company's modernisation programme progresses, that figure will also increase. Had the statutory limit on the company's authorised share capital not existed, there would no doubt have been a gradual adjustment of the company's capital structure to bring the gearing ratio back into line with commercial norms.
The statutory limit does exist, and only the Oireachtas can expand it. In amending it, the Oireachtas is sanctioning a process which, in a commercial concern, would have begun some six or seven years ago, and, is therefore, in a certain sense allowing the company to get on with a backlog in their financial restructuring. A certain measure of flexibility for future years is also being given. Were it not for the confidence that lenders have in the State sector, this would have proved problematic for the company. As it happens, however, there has never been any serious doubt about the Government's commitment to the company as a shareholder and as a sponsor.
 The £30 million which the Government propose to make available in 1982 will be subject to conditions. The main one will be the submission by the company of a clear and specific programme for the rationalisation of their food processing activities and of the beet-growing and sugar industry. I should like to emphasise that it is for the company to determine the details of that plan, and to demonstrate to me that is is satisfactory. The yardstick will be that of increasing overall efficiency with a special eye on the restoration of financial balance to the company's affairs.
The figure of £75 million does not imply an immediate injection of that amount. It is the kind of figure at which the company's share capital might reasonably be set once the investments they have undertaken are completed. It represents the share capital some years hence of a sugar company with up-to-date plant and assets, with their sails set for the kind of competitive operation which characterised their earlier years.
Expansion for a food processing concern can only take place if their suppliers are committed to it as well. It is disappointing that our EEC sugar production A quota of 182,000 tonnes has hardly been reached in any recent campaigns. Renegotiation of production quotas is only two years away. If we do not fill our existing quota, we are undermining our own position in that re-negotiation. There is, therefore, a very heavy onus on farmers. We must be able to preserve our slice of the action if the sugar company are to survive.
If we apply this reasoning to the Tuam factory, it still holds good. In deciding that the factory should remain open, the Government had two things in mind. First of all, they recognised the factory's pivotal position in the regional economy of Connacht. Secondly, they wished to see to it that agriculture in the west — in this instance beet-growing — has the greatest number of outlets possible.
Finally, as far as food processing is concerned, we must recognise that the hopes of the early sixties have not been realised. Food processing in the past few years has been at the root of the company's  inability to turn in consistent profits with which to fund re-investment. In saying this, I do not wish it to be thought that the Government have doubts about the future of food processing as a company activity. They have not. There are problems, as the joint committee noted. The home market is small, and export markets are subject to fierce competition from trans-national enterprises. The solution for the food division lies in developing a strategy suitable for the scale of their operations in order to turn their activities around. The need to do this as soon as possible is apparent when we consider that this year, for the third year running, losses will be in the £12 million bracket.
The Bill before the House limits itself to amending certain financial provisions of the Acts. Its immediate function is to authorise the Minister for Finance to make certain issues out of the central Fund. This authority will be drawn on in 1982 to the extent of advancing £30 million to the company. Future advances will be made in accordance with the circumstances then prevailing.
The main shareholder in the Sugar Company is the State. The main beneficiary of those holdings when profits are returned is the State. In passing this Bill into law, the Oireachtas will be enabling the Exchequer to perform a duty which lies upon shareholders and to correct the under-capitalisation which besets the company at present. The State is now, as it has been in the past, a willing shareholder, and the Government have no wish to change that. Therefore I commend the Bill to the House.
Mr. Hourigan Mr. Hourigan
Mr. Hourigan: I welcome the Minister to the House. The Bill is welcome for a number of important reasons. One of the most important reasons referred to by the Minister is the very difficult if not impossible position in which the Irish Sugar Company could find themselves if this capitalisation programme were not introduced at this time. There are as number of points which need to be clarified. I will be posing a few questions as I proceed which the Minister can answer for us.
 However, first I should like to stress that the Irish Sugar Company and their related industries are extremely important to us. Appoximatedly 3,000 persons are employed by the company. In excess of 7,000 farmers are growing been and, in addition, several thousand persons are working in areas ancillary to the sugar, beet and vegetable industries, particularly in the area of fertilisers, haulage, and so on. The importance of this industry to the nation could not be over-emphasised. It is important that £70 million is saved to the Exchequer by way of imports by the Irish Sugar Company. Indeed if you take into account byproducts, you are talking about £100 million as a saving in imports. This highlights the importance of the company and the enormity of the situation should anything happen.
I concur with the Minister in his concern about our not reaching the A quota figure of 182,000 tonnes. This is extremely serious for Ireland because, in a relatively short time now, we will be renegotiating our quota and if we have not reached 182,000 tonnes that will put us in a position of great weakness, in any negotiations for holding to that figure, if not, indeed, increasing it. I would urge all concerned with the industry at every level, at farming level, at processing level, and at marketing level, to combine together solidly to ensure that we reach the A quota of 182,000 tonnes. It is extremely important and we must not lose sight of it. I will be be coming back to it again.
Acreage can be increased. Evidence of this is shown very positively in the Tuam factory catchment area. This year the acreage is 7,600, and that represents an increase of 25 per cent on last year's acreage. Last year's acreage represented a 50 per cent increase on the year prior to that. I believe, therefore, that the acreage can be increased. When I am talking about Tuam, it might be appropriate to say that we on this side of the House are confident that the acreage required for the continuation of the Tuam factory will be arrived at. That is a very important factor. The figure is  10,000 acres and perhaps it will be an increasing figure as time progresses.
What proportion of the proposed allocation of £30 million is earmarked for the Tuam factory? There is no point in getting the acreage up to the level required if efficiency at factory level is not brought into line. I have been disturbed by information which I consider to be reliable that not much of the £30 million we are talking about here today is earmarked for the Tuam development. I am talking about the updating of the Tuam factory. I emphasise “updating” because over a long number of years the Tuam factory was allowed to be run down to a very serious level. It is essential, therefore, that we should get the beet for the Tuam factory and that we should also update the factory and bring it into line with processing methods and efficiency levels of 1982 and the years ensuing.
The Bill, as stated by the Minister, is designed to make certain that the company are capitalised. At the moment we all accept that they are totally under-capitalised. People with a reasonable business-like approach must accept that they have to get capital. I referred earlier to the A quota. We have never reached that quota of 182,000 tonnes. At the moment we have 88,000 acres of beet growing, and the optimum figure will be about 90,000 acres. That would be a fluctuating figure, but we must get to that position pretty quickly. There is a great deal more to this than is apparent at first examination. We are faced with a very serious inflation situation, and a very serious interest rate situation, both of which are very much inter-related. Therefore, the margin to the grower of beet is not very attractive. In fact, this is one of our problems. Beet as a cash crop is very important to the Irish farmer. For the past 50 years it has represented a very fundamental and integral part of the Irish farming scene. For many years the Irish Sugar Company have acted as a lending institution for their customers. Credit was made available on a seasonal basis to growers, and so on. It must be acknowledged that the sugar company have been in a profit making situation for most of their existence, until the past few years  when they ran into extremely serious difficulties. It is no harm to remark that in 1980 they had a loss making position of £11.2 million, in 1981 a loss making position of £12 million, followed in 1982 by an expected loss making position of about £12 million. That is the kind of loss making situation which has been developing in the past number of years, from a position where the company were operating quite effectively and quite well. I accept that there are underlying reasons for this. There are explanations. The company borrowed and then got caught up in an inflationary situation.
With regard to this allocation for 1982, £30 million is really the issue at stake because the other £35 million is a matter for the future. It is an allocation for the years to come. In 1982 it is proposed that £30 million should be allocated to the Irish Sugar Company. I have already referred to the disturbing information which I received that Tuam was not earmarked for very much of this. I hope the Minister will say this is not the case. I will be very pleased if he does because, I feel very strongly that the Tuam factory has got to be updated in addition to getting those extra acres of beet which I am confident the Tuam factory area will provide.
It is imperative that very positive conditions are attached to this allocation of £30 million in 1982. It must be based on a very precise programme. It is not clear to me yet, but I understand it is an anticipated programme rather than an actual programme. It would have been far better if we were talking about an actual programme for the allocation of moneys rather than an anticipated programme. Since we are talking about an anticipated programme, I hope it will be totally and fully examined and ratified, and not accepted until all the important requirements are met.
On this point it is no harm to mention that the recent allegations — indeed stronger than allegations — about the misappropriation of funds within the Irish Sugar Company have led to very disturbed feelings. If we are investing this substantial amount of money, we want to make certain that what occurred  recently, when some millions of pounds were done away with and disappeared, will not recur. I would go further and say that, in semi-State bodies generally, extreme care must be taken to ensure that it never happens again.
Apart from the amount of money involved — and the money was substantial — the fact that it could happen, and that some person or persons could pocket the money and get away with it and cause the sugar company to lose further vast amounts of money, is extremely important. I urge the Minister and the Government to assure us that there will never be a recurrence of that, and that every appropriate step will be taken in that regard. It would be irresponsible not to state that the internal auditing management of the sugar company who allowed that to occur leave a great deal to be desired.
In all businesses today we must aspire to the best business and management practices possible. These are very much warranted in a highly competitive situation. Unfortunately we have no evidence of this as of now in the Irish Sugar Company. This needs to be corrected. I do not want to labour that point but, at the same time, it is causing a disturbance in the minds of people, in the mind of the ordinary taxpayer, that such a development could occur and that it could have been going on over a long period of time, unknown to the management and board of the Irish Sugar Company. What steps will be taken to avoid a recurrence of that situation in the Irish Sugar Company and in other semi-State bodies?
I have already said that inflation will dictate whether farmers will continue to grow beet. This is true whether it be in Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford or the west. This is a very important factor. In this Bill we are talking about 88,000 acres, 90,000 acres used for tillage. We are talking about farming right across the spectrum. The whole farming problem and its present very serious situation is going to militate against our achieving the beet acreage we would all like to see. I fully support the Bill. I would leave in  those qualifications I mentioned and I expect the Minister to satisfy me on that.
It is relevant to note that since 1976 to 1979 the company invested £40 million of non-Government money. Apart from the number of persons who work directly in the company, the 3,000 and 7,000 growers, and the other people who work in ancillary industries, the Sugar Company have a very important business dimension in at least four towns — Tuam, Carlow, Thurles and Mallow. I do not think it is easy to quantify the value a thriving prosperous sugar company is to our economy and to our life.
There is one obvious and very great weakness in the company, and that is Erin Foods. Unfortunately, Erin Foods, which I see as a innovation that brought a new technology into farming, have been seriously hit by inflation and high interest levels. We import foodstuffs costing about £650 million and a substantial amount of that is in the area of vegetables. The products of Erin Foods are not holding their own in the Irish market, not to mention the difficulties they are having abroad because of inflation, interest rates and lack of competitiveness generally. The promotion of their products in Irish supermarkets leaves a lot to be desired. It is obvious that the Erin Foods product is not pushed to the fore as much as it ought to be. If this situation is corrected it will help enormously, because the home market is most important for any product. There is little point spending a lot of money in foreign promotions if we neglect our home market. I submit that the home market for vegetables could be a great deal better. Greater co-ordination of effort would ensure that vegetables could be grown here the whole year round especially if the market was made economically attractive and this would help to solve our financial problems.
Beet is part of a very important rotation system in farming. Beet, cereals, grass, potatoes, a whole range of crops fit into a network where there is an interdependence. When we talk about beet and vegetable growing, we are talking about a wider scenario — tillage and grassland. There is no doubt that a cessation  of the Sugar Company's activities, which would be on the cards without this injection of capital, could be very serious.
I referred to our employment situation. Our import situation is very serious. The factories in various towns have social and business dimensions which cannot be easily quantified. There are 300 full-time workers in the town of Tuam. If you were to reckon that there are four or five persons per household, you are talking perhaps about 1,500 persons directly affected by that factory. This shows the importance of making certain that the Tuam factory is kept in existence but it will not be kept in existence just by talking about growing more beet. That is one very important dimension. If we are totally committed to a promotions campaign, I am certain the acreage will be achieved. We have many seasonal workers in Tuam, about 400 at present. This means there are about 700 persons working in the Tuam factory, either full-time or part-time, and this means there are thousands of people directly affected by the Tuam factory, not to mention all those engaged in ancillary businesses.
I mentioned the Tuam factory because it has been spoken about in recent times. I am concerned that the onus will be put on farmers to grow beet. If they do not people may say they failed in their responsibilities and duties. I say quite honestly that we must make certain that the factory receives a proportionate amount of that £30 million being considered for the Irish Sugar Company this year. I want to emphasise very strongly that the Minister ought to inform this House how that £30 million is being allocated. I urge that it be allocated only under the strictest and severest supervision, and that it should be done on a proportionate basis.
I would like to know how it is proposed to spend the extra £35 million. I am satisfied that this money is necessary. I fully support the Bill but I would like to know the breakdown of that money. I would be satisfied if I was told a substantial amount of that money is earmarked for the Tuam factory.
Mícheál Cranitch Mícheál Cranitch
 Mícheál Cranitch: Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit. Ní fhaca mé sa Teach seo cheana é agus cuirim fíor chaoin fáilte roimhe agus guím rath Dé ar féin agus ar a chuid oibre.
This Bill concerns one of our oldest and best loved companies — Comhlucht Siúicre Éireann Teoranta, a company with a chequered history of which we are all very proud. It has been in existence for over 50 years. God alone knows the amount of good that company have done for our people, not alone the farmers, the workers in the factories in the four towns already mentioned by Senator Hourigan, but those who helped to keep the system going—lorry drivers, helpers, petrol suppliers and so on. It was a blessing when this company came into existence and those factories were established. But they kept their heads above water until comparatively recently. It is very sad to relate that in recent years something appears to have gone wrong. What happened? Was it the times? For the last three or four years they have been running at losses of at least an average of £12 million a year. One is tempted to ask what are the causes of that unhappy position.
The company have diversified their activities. While some are holding their own or making a profit, if appears that the main industries — the sugar industry, the food processing industry and the engineering industry — have not been going well for some time. It is all right to say management could be wrong or workers could be wrong, or maybe it is a combination of both. I do not know. Are the factories being kept up to date? How do they compare with similar factories on the continent? These are points the Minister may be able to answer. Management should take cognisance of this point and keep in touch with the most up-to-date factories on the continent. Since our entry into the EEC we are in competition with the most skilled operatives in the world. Losses undoubtedly are due to a large extent to higher interest rates. That affects all industries. Higher labour costs, lower sales, possibly redundancies and early retirement payments and the inevitable industrial disputes could be factors.
 I am worried about the losses in the food processing industry. We have the conditions necessary to produce the finest packaged food in the world. We have a climate suitable for vegetables, fruit and potatoes. Therefore why can we not grow this produce?
Senator Hourigan and the Minister referred to the lack of demand for these products on the home market. If we do not sell our own manufactured goods here how can we expect to sell them abroad? Somebody might say that is all very fine, but why are they not displayed prominently? Why are they not promoted well enough? Maybe the fault lies there, but this is something we will have to face up to. Somebody told me recently that we spend £650 million a year on imported foodstuffs. If so, it is a crying scandal. It shows what could be done if we grew our own food and sold it on the home market. It would turn the tables upside down as far as excess imports and our external debt are concerned. One of the companies that could help considerably in this area is Comhlucht Siúicre Éireann.
I am very glad to support this Bill. I welcome it. The money is wanted and I hope it will be put to the best advantage. The Minister very wisely in his address said:
The present Bill is designed for the most part to broaden the company's capital base and to allow it to increase its authorised share of capital from its present level of £10 million to a new level of £75 million.
He observed that it may appear to be a dramatic increase, and it does and I have no doubt that it is absolutely necessary. I hope an effort will be made to bring about an improvement in the sales of sugar and food processed by Erin Foods. These are two key elements. Unless we improve the position disaster will strike again. I join with Senator Hourigan in expressing the hope that never again will such a scandal occur in the running of Comhlucht Siúicre Éireann. It is extraordinary that such a thing could happen. We are living in extraordinary times when people who have too much brains  but badly use them, can do what was done. I hope that such a thing never happens again and that Comhlucht Siúicre Éireann will continue the work they have been doing since they were established some years ago. I wish them every success in their efforts to keep employment at a very high level in the sugar beet industry.
Mr. Durkan Mr. Durkan
Mr. Durkan: This Bill refers to a very long established and, until recently, a very efficient and profit making company. I accept the need for the increase in share capital from £10 million upwards, but the limit of £75 million leaves us to ask certain questions. We are aware that £30 million of this capital is to be expended almost immediately to meet current losses. As I have said on a number of occasions, State and semi-State bodies should be subject to the highest possible standards of accountancy and, at the same time, public accountability. Unlike the two previous speakers I feel there is now a very urgent need for a tightening of the financial management structures and this was alluded to by Senator Hourigan and Senator Cranitch.
The Members of this House would be very concerned if action was not taken by the Minister and by the board of Comhlucht Siúicre Éireann to ensure that there is not a repetition of the unfortunate scandal that arose some time ago in relation to that company. It would appear to us that the financial and the sales branches of the firm were operating what appeared to be a brokerage both in the areas of selling and of finance. It would have very serious consequences if we were to allow the opportunity to pass without severely censuring the company for allowing the operation of this type of scheme. I insist that the Minister should impress upon the company the reservations raised in relation to that matter in this House. He should extract from the company an undertaking that there will be no recurrence. That is all I have to say in relation to that unfortunate scandal. We are dealing with public funds, taxpayers' money, and where such money is involved we must at all times ensure that  we have the highest possible degree of accountability.
The company should have been in a position to react somewhat quicker than they did to what was happening. This seems to be a feature of company policy, or lack of policy, in the sense, as the Minister has also said, the increased share capital the firm are now seeking should have been sought some years ago. I wonder if requests were made for permission to increase share capital previously? If they were not, why? If the company proposed to expand and to modernise their obsolete plant, then obviously they should have sought permission particularly in view of the fluctuations in the economy and in the money market generally. I would have thought that the company would have sought permission much sooner.
I welcome the fact that the company are embarking on modernisation of their plant. Like Senator Hourigan, I strongly urge that modernisation of plant should take place also in the Tuam plant because that factory is an integral part of the sugar processing system in this country and it has been for quite a number of years. It has provided both a social and an economic element in the past. I see no reason why it cannot continue to do so in the future, provided supplies are made available from the grower and that when the supplies are available they will be processed as quickly as possible. We should not allow a situation to recur as happened some years ago when, because of an industrial dispute at a crucial time in the harvesting cycle, supplies had to be left in the ground. Certainly they were not processed with the greatest possible speed and the result to the grower was extremely unfortunate and financially damaging. I did not blame the workers in that case but I would draw some attention to the fact that management should have recognised that there was a problem in existence and that it was likely to culminate in a serious problem when the harvesting of the crop took place. That is what happened and the result at that time was disastrous. That is one of the reasons for the decrease in beet growing in certain parts of the country. Quite a number of  irate growers still refer very heatedly to that to this day.
The other area that needs to be looked at, and already it has been referred to on a number of occasions, is food processing. I welcome the fact that the Irish Sugar Company have sought over the years to diversify their enterprises. They were singularly successful in doing so particularly in relation to machinery manufacture. That sector of the company are to be congratulated for the successful fashion in which they undertook their enterprise and they have found worldwide recognition for it. We hope that some of the money now being channelled into the company will be allocated towards research, the modernisation of those elements of the plant and also the expansion of those elements of the machinery manufacturing plant. It is also essential that sufficient funds will be made available to ensure that the personnel who have the necessary qualifications are attracted into the firm and are given reasonable scope to produce the machines that are required today.
Seanad Éireann 98 Sugar Manufacture (Amendment) Bill, 1982: Second Stage.