Lobby group looking at site for sugar factory on Carlow/Kildare border
A new sugar factory delivering jobs to rural areas would be capable of attracting the funding necessary for a multimillion euro revival of the industry, it has been claimed.
After years of campaigning to reignite the once buoyant sugar sector, Michael Hoey, who is behind prepared food brand Country Crest and the Beet Ireland campaign group, believes they are now much closer to their goal.
"There are mechanisms of putting the funding together because a beet factory is a long-term proposition - it is 50 to 60 years," Mr Hoey told tillage farmers gathered at an Irish Grain Growers meeting in Bunclody, Co Wexford.
"There are instruments there to make it happen such as the National Pension Reserve Fund for one. Because if you take all of their requirements - it is about employment and local sustainability."
It is understood a potential site has been located close to the Carlow/Kildare border. Mr Hoey said there was still a demand for good-quality sugar and EU sugar quota restrictions have now been lifted, but they needed around 600 tillage farmers planting 25,000-27,000ha.
The recent Oireachtas report on the Future of the Tillage Sector called for a review of the potential opportunities in the sugar beet industry.
The sugar industry came to a halt in Ireland over a decade ago with the shutting of plants like Mallow and Carlow, and compensation paid to Greencore and growers.
Chair of the committee, Fine Gael TD, Pat Deering, acknowledged there would be challenges in resurrecting the industry. He said their aim was to "kick start" a discussion with the wide-ranging report as the tillage industry is at a crossroads.