Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Thursday 21 September 2017

EU sugar changes not so sweet for Ardfinnan

Tillage farmer George Mason says his village of Ardfinnan has lost out since the sugar beet sector went into decline
Tillage farmer George Mason says his village of Ardfinnan has lost out since the sugar beet sector went into decline

Eimear Ni Bhraonain

Hundreds of young farmers were saved from the boat to England by the sugar industry, according to Tipperary tillage farmer George Mason.

But the closure of the Carlow factory in 2005 -- and Mallow in Co Cork just a year later -- saw an end to the industry.

Mr Mason's late father, Pat, had kept the business going in the Ardfinnan area for almost 40 years before he handed it over to his son in 2000.

"Almost as soon as I took it over, it was gone. It was a big shock to the system," said Mr Mason. "It seemed so strange that you could just turn off an industry at the whim of somebody in Brussels."

This week's report on the EU's sugar reform exposes how the European Commission botched the "restructuring" of the industry.

The EU Court of Auditors found that there was no need to close Mallow after all. But it's too late now as the plant has already been bulldozed.

Greencore had hoped to develop the Mallow and Carlow sites but the slump in the property has put paid to those ambitions.

Watching Greencore transport equipment from the Carlow plant to Mallow in 2005 was painful for George.

Also Read


Compensation

"There was little or no consultation when they made the decision to close Carlow. The lads would have much preferred to grow sugar beet than to take compensation.

"Lads grew sugar beet and it was a way of life. We spread the money around the area. There was a knock-on effect to the shopkeepers, contractors and the truck drivers, they all gained from the sugar beet. It was a good earner for them and kept them going until Christmas time.

"We're banned from growing beet now because we signed a contract when we got out."

George's village of Ardfinnan took a major hit since the Celtic Tiger stopped roaring.

"Everyone turned to services and financial services. That was the future, we were told. There are lots of little villages around the place like ours and everything is gone."

Irish Independent