Saturday 17 August 2019

Farmers want to restart the sugar beet industry

THE IRISH beet industry which closed down five years ago should be revived, according to a group of former beet growers. A meeting to discuss bringing back the crop which once provided valuable income to 700 Wexford growers has been called for Thursday, December 16, at the Farm Centre in Enniscorthy's Mill Park Road at 8 p.m.

Willie French from Loughgerald will be in the chair for the occasion as many farmers insist that flawed reasoning was used in reaching the decision to close down the last of the sugar factories in Mallow and Carlow. He was among the Wexford contingent – along with the likes of Willie Masterson, Bertie Warren and David Skrine – who attended a meeting on the subject recently in Mallow.

According to Willie French, there is a requirement for at least 100,000 tonnes of sugar each year in Ireland. At present, he believes that foreign suppliers are struggling to meet the demand and prices are high.

'I imagine that any new Irish sugar industry would be unsubsidised. It would have to stand on its own feet,' mused Willie who recalled that the business had a turnover of more than €10 million annually in Wexford alone before Greencore closed the factories. He suggested that around 1,000 families in the county were affected by the shutdown in 2005.

'We feel an injustice was done and our only interest is getting the industry back,' he commented. As well as producing bags of sweet sugar, beet is capable of being used for making ethanol, plastics and even textiles, he pointed out.

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