independent

Monday 19 August 2019

Plan to resurrect the sugar beet industry

FLASHBACK TO 2005: County Wexford beet farmers on an IFA protest drive to Mallow.
FLASHBACK TO 2005: County Wexford beet farmers on an IFA protest drive to Mallow.

ELAINE FURLONG

PLANS TO resurrect the Irish Sugar Beet industry, with the proposed construction of a new sugar beet processing plant in Wexford, are to be unveiled at the National Ploughing Championships this week.

Wexford Sinn Féin has proposed that County Wexford should be the base for the revival of the Irish Sugar Beet Industry in 2015.

The party will unveil its own local plans for the construction of a new sugar beet processing plant in Wexford at the ploughing championships. The construction of such a plant, they claim, would cost an estimated €350 million, create 5,000 jobs and be profitable within the first year

The County Chairperson Oisin O'Connell, a tillage farmer in Foulksmills, said the conditions are now ripe for the revival of an industry which should never have been allowed to go.

'County Wexford tillage farming was dealt a severe blow in 2005 when the sugar processing plant in Carlow was closed. Around 700 of our county farmers were engaged in this industry...To say this was a mistake is an understatement,' said Oisin.

'Sugar beet continues to be a profitable crop, whether for the production of sugar or ethanol, and as any tillage farmer will tell you, it is a crop that benefits the ground it is grown in by actually enhancing the soil fertility and so increases the yield of the next crop to be grown there,' he added.

According to Oisin, a 2011 feasibility study completed by the Irish Sugar Beet Bio-Refinery Group recommended that the industry could and should be revived in its traditional growth region of the South East through the construction of a new integrated bio-refinery plant for the production of sugar and ethanol from sugar beet and grain.

'It is my personal belief that there are several suitable locations in County Wexford for such a plant. The construction of such a plant would cost an estimated €350 million. It would create 5,000 jobs, be profitable within the first year and would bring lucrative new income opportunities for struggling tillage farmers,' he explained. 'In order for the plant to be profitable sugar beet prices would need to be more than €570 per tonne. Current prices stand at €850 per tonne for imported sugar, and no one believes that prices would fall below €570 anytime soon,' he added.

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