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Sugar beet growers target reinstatement of sector

Sugar beet growers are seeking to have Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney push for the reinstatement of quota to allow the crop to be grown commercially in Ireland again.

The move comes following the completion of two separate feasibility studies, which are both believed to have concluded that sugar beet can be competitively produced here.

A report compiled with the help of UCD's Professor Jimmy Burke and ex-Greencore personnel has already been scrutinised by officials at the Department. A second report by the BEET Ireland group is due to be presented to Mr Coveney this week.

This study estimates that it will cost €400m to kick-start a sugar processing industry here, and members of the group believe that there is no shortage of investors willing to back the venture due to the global shortage of sugar supplies.

As a result, farmers wanting to grow the crop will be under no obligation to contribute to the cost of re-establishing processing facilities here, according to a member of the BEET Ireland committee.

"They would be entitled to invest in a shareholding in the industry but there would be no requirement for them to do so," he said.

The biggest hurdle, says the group, will be convincing the EU to grant quota production rights to Ireland again, despite the fact that more than €100m was paid out to Greencore and farmers after the decision was taken to close down the industry in 2005.

However, BEET Ireland members believe that this country has a credible case due to the compensation being calculated on the loss of income over a period that finishes next year. The sugar beet regime is due for an overhaul at EU level in 2015.

Indo Farming