Sweet deal for sugar beet revival

Carlow has been earmarked as a top location for a new bio-refinery plant that will produce sugar as well as ethanol.

Carlow has been earmarked as a top location for a new bio-refinery plant that will produce sugar as well as ethanol.

This is good news for Kildare South, where it is hoped hundreds of permanent local jobs will be advertised to run and construct the plant itself and to the many past and potential sugar beet farmers in the region.

This revival of the sugar beet industry could create up to 3,500 jobs throughout Ireland over the next five years, according to Beet Ireland, but it all depends on money and European go-ahead.

If farmer buy-in and investment proves fruitful, and Beet Ireland gets the go-ahead from the European Commission, it is hoped the factory will be up and running by 2015. And all the signs from the Government to the European Commission to the farmers themselves are very positive that this project will prove a sweet deal for the region.

Speaking to the Leinster Leader, Pat Cleary of Beet Ireland, said the plant, which would be privately owned and run, would cost an estimated €350 million to construct.

It is envisaged that 30 per cent of the finance would come from equity investment, mainly sugar beet growers, and 70 per cent from 15-year bank loans. The plant would be profitable within the first year, according to the Beet Ireland study.

“Because of the large catchment of beet growers in the region, Carlow is looking like the preferred top location for the new factory,” said Mr Cleary.

The organisation briefed more than 350 farmers in the Clanard Hotel in Athy last week on its next phase, which is securing investment and going to European.

Kildare South TD Martin Heydon spoke at the Beet Ireland meeting in Athy. His main message to the large gathering of former and potential future beet growers was that the potential outlined in the Beet Ireland could only be realised by farmer buy-in.

“The positive potential for the Irish economy if we can return to the production of beet for sugar and ethanol production is enormous. However this will not happen without the buy in of Irish farmers. There still is a long road to go on a political level but farmers can rest assured that we are up for that battle in Europe,” he said.