IRISH sugar could be back on the shelves again after farmers and businessmen said they are prepared to make a €400m investment to revive the sugar industry.
They said Ireland could combat growing world shortages of sugar by producing 250,000 tonnes of sugar and 11 million litres of bioethanol.
Beet Ireland released a feasibility study at the Ploughing Championships yesterday setting out its plan for a new sugar-processing plant to take advantage of the ending of EU sugar quotas from 2015.
It said the industry could operate subsidy-free in the new unrestricted trading environment and would process 30,000 hectares worth of sugarbeet for both food and fuel.
Chairman Michael Hoey, managing director of Country Crest foods, said the new plant would be privately funded by growers and business investors.
"Every Irish consumer that uses sugar in the home will be able to buy Irish produced sugar. The macro-economic benefits will result in significant new employment opportunities as well as improved balance of trade," he said.
They would seek government support in the form of tax breaks and help with any transitional arrangements the European Union might make for ending restrictions on sugar production, but this would be a strictly commercial venture, he said.
Ireland exited sugar production in 2006 in return for compensation but the new quota-free regime along with world shortages and high prices for sugar would allow a valuable industry re-emerge, he said.
Meanwhile, farmers have been urged to be more vigilant on their farms as the death toll from accidents this year rose to 18.
The latest victim was killed by a bull in Cork on Monday. Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney launched a new programme of Teagasc half-day courses at the Ploughing Championships yesterday to help farmers review safety measures on their farms.
"I am very concerned that 18 people have lost their lives on Irish farms so far this year. This is an unacceptably high proportion of the 42 workplace deaths this year," he said.
"These accidents are causing avoidable tragedy, pain and suffering and disability."