L-R Pat Farrell National IFA Grain Executive, John Coughlan Munster Regional IFA Chairman, Erica O’Keeffe South Tipperary IFA Chairperson, Pat Cleary Beet Ireland, Sean Kelly MEP and Michael Hoey
More than 200 farmers attended a public meeting organised by Beet Ireland and the IFA in Tipperary last week following proposed plans for the restoration of sugar processing on the Carlow/Kilkenny border.
Beet Ireland, which was set up to revive the sugar industry in Ireland, intend on developing a new sugar and bioethanol industry and say they have already identified a market opportunity valued at €5 billion, based on the production of sugar, bioethanol and the potential for production of biodegradable plastics (polymers).
A site was purchased on the Carlow/Kilkenny border for a new national sugar processing site back in January of this year.
The current business model is based on attracting 1,000 growers to commit €1,000 as an initial investment to get the project up and running.
Great turnout at @BEETIreland & @IFAmedia meeting in Cahir. Thanks to @SeanKellyMEP and Erica O’Keefe for their contributions. Also delighted to see young tillage enthusiast, Hugh Bergin from Rosegreen attend! #brightfuture pic.twitter.com/EqunS3MoNE— Mary Newman Julian (@Mary4Tipperary) December 6, 2018
Michael Hoey, Country Crest and Beet Ireland member also spoke about the sustainability and food security of re-establishing the sugar beet industry in Ireland and welcomed the possibility of Siúcre sugar actually being Irish produced into the future.
Speaking at the meeting Mary Newman Julian said it was essential that any business model would be profitable for Irish farmers, as well as sustainable.
She said: "The price farmers will receive per tonne of sugar beet will be linked to the global price of sugar, and in an international market, is likely to be volatile, similar to what we see with the global dairy market."
When widescale sugar beet farming ended in Ireland in 2006 with the closure of the Mallow Sugar factory, with Thurles, Tuam and Carlow having closed previously, farmers were receiving €45/tonne plus €5/tonne transport subsidy. With the cost of haulage increased significantly in the past 10 years, this is a concern for farmers.
"I welcome this brave initiative by Beet Ireland; the co-op movement have had great successes in Ireland with the likes of Kerry and Glanbia co-ops, now global market leaders that were founded by brave, pioneering Irish farmers many years ago. It is essential that farmers receive a fair, sustainable and profitable price for the sugar beet they are to produce, given the level of investment and commitment that is required," added the Fine Gael General Election candidate.
The first sugar company factory was opened in Carlow in 1926 with factories later following in Thurles, Tuam and Mallow however the production of sugar beet ceased in Ireland in 2006 following the closure of the last remaining plant in Cork.