Bid to revive sugar beet industry in 2015

Wed, Oct 10, 2012, 01:00

THE GOVERNMENT will attempt to revive the Irish sugar beet industry in 2015 if it can agree an arrangement on sugar production quotas with the European Commission, the Minister for Agriculture has said.

Simon Coveney said the skill set existed in the State to grow and harvest sugar and he would “certainly like to see a situation where we could be processing our own sugar”. He said this would also be contingent on the commercial feasibility of building a €200 million to €300 million processing plant.

In 2006, Greencore controversially closed the State’s last sugar plant in Mallow, Co Cork, with the loss of 320 jobs, following EU sugar policy reforms. The company said the changes to the sugar regime would result in unacceptable losses. However, in 2010, a report by the European Court of Auditors found that the closure of the factory was needless because the business was profitable at the time.

In July, two groups presented plans for reviving the industry to the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Mr Coveney told RTÉ’s Today with Pat Kenny yesterday he would like to see the Republic re-enter the industry when the quota system expires in 2015.

“In my view there is a possibility, if not a likelihood, that Ireland will get back into the sugar processing business in the future.”

He said he would like to see the abolition of quotas, but admitted that a compromise was more likely. “It will be my job to make sure that if the sugar quota register does get extended beyond 2015 that Ireland will be allowed to access a quota that will be sufficient to fulfil the needs of its own home market.”