BEET Ireland will continue in its efforts to revive the Irish sugar beet industry despite predictions of a serious drop in prices on world markets and calls from European farmers' group Copa for the existing sugar regime to be extended to 2020.
Michael Hoey, who heads up BEET Ireland, said predictions in a recent Rabobank report of a severe drop in sugar prices this year would not deflect the organisation.
"There is always going to be peaks and troughs in all commodity prices, but our proposal makes sense and we are ploughing ahead," Mr Hoey said.
It is understood that investors have expressed interest in the project, which will require between €350m and €400m funding for the development of a sugar processing and power plant.
Ireland will also need clearance from Brussels to restart sugar processing. However, changes to the existing sugar regime are opposed by the current holders of significant production quotas, such as France and Germany.
This position was supported by Copa last week when the organisation's president Gerd Sonnleitner called for EU sugar production quotas to be kept until at least 2020.
"In the coming years, the sugar sector will need a stable, common market organisation in order to improve its competitive position further. The need to maintain the existing sugar market organisation until 2020, at the very least, is vital," Mr Sonnleitner said.
Meanwhile, a report from Rabobank has projected a sharp drop in sugar prices this year due to a substantial global supply surplus.
New York raw sugar futures have been under pressure in recent months, falling from US24.9c/lb in the first week of March to US19.8c/lb by the final week of May.
However, industry officials pointed out that the price of imported sugar into Ireland is at €850/t at the moment.
The feasibility study for the BEET Ireland proposal was based on a sugar price of €570/t, well below current levels.