Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Tuesday 23 October 2018

‘Sugar beet industry can be revived if farmers are willing’

The viability of beet production in Ireland has been questioned
The viability of beet production in Ireland has been questioned
Jim O'Brien

Jim O'Brien

The Carlow sugar factory was the life-blood of the south eastern town and county from its establishment in 1926 to its closure in 2005.

In the past year there have been rumours and open discussion about reviving the sugar beet industry in the region.

An Oireachtas report on the future of the tillage sector produced by the Committee on Agriculture published late last year called for a review of the opportunities in sugar beet.

Earlier this year Beet Ireland, a lobby group seeking to re-establish the Irish sugar beet industry, acquired  a 200ac site for a factory at Plumperstown on the Carlow-Kildare border.

Michael Hoey of Beet Ireland believes there is a real market for Irish sugar.

“As a  food producer we are importing huge amounts of ingredients, there is a definite willingness in the Irish food industry to buy Irish sugar,” he said.

Vincent Hughes from Ballinkillen, Co Carlow took pulling fodder beet for farmer Paddy Brennan. Roger Jones.
Vincent Hughes from Ballinkillen, Co Carlow took pulling fodder beet for farmer Paddy Brennan. Roger Jones.

While the tillage sector is going through a tough time at the moment he nevertheless believes there are real possibilities.

Now that Beet Ireland has bought the site for a new factory at Plumperstown on the Carlow-Kildare border, and raised awareness of the potential for the industry, Mr Hoey believes that it is up to the farmers to take the opportunity.

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“We have the best site in the country, the quotas are gone, all it will take is a willingness on the part of farmers to make it happen,” he said.

Beet tops on tillage eProfit test

Teagasc's Michael Hennessy has urged all tillage farmers to complete an eProfit monitor to "benchmark" themselves after they released the most recent figures.

Results for 2016 showed beet delivered the largest net margin for average growers of €642/ha. "You don't rush into beet unless you have that market," said Mr Hennessy, adding it was similar to some of the other break crops. Winter oats performed well with a net margin of €235/ha.

He pointed out the figures do not include labour, and beet can be very labour intensive. He said malting barley did perform well but the top one third of spring barley feed growers earned more than the average malting barley grower.

Beans deliver well but without the protein payment it did not "stand on its own two feet" and only produced a net margin of €41/ha. Mr Hennessy said the figures were having an effect on malting barley with farmers realising that it is "not the only crop out there".


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