Beet Ireland buying 200-acre site on Carlow-Kildare border

Published: 01/12/2018, 9:24:50 AM

Beet Ireland, the lobby group seeking to resurrect Ireland's sugar industry, is in the process of buying a site on the Carlow-Kildare border for a new national sugar processing plant, according to the Irish Times newspaper.

The organisation is understood to be finalising a deal to acquire a 200-acre site in Plumperstown, formerly owned by a concrete manufacturer, for around EUR4 million (US$4.82 million).

In conjunction with a strategic partner, Beet Ireland plans to redevelop the site into a high-tech sugar processing facility, which could produce up to 200,000 tonnes of sugar a year.

A spokesman for Beet Ireland declined to confirm details of the transaction, saying they were still being finalised.

Battered by a slump in global grain prices, tillage farmers here are said to be keen to resume growing sugar, which is traditionally grown in rotation with other crops but is considerably more profitable.

The viability of resurrecting Ireland's sugar industry has been boosted by the recent abolition of EU sugar quotas.

Greencore, an offshoot of the former Irish Sugar Company, closed its last Irish sugar plant in Mallow in 2006, effectively ending production in Ireland.

As the holder of the entire Irish sugar quota, the company availed of an EU voluntary restructuring scheme to dismantle its facilities and cease production.

The State secured EUR353 million from the scheme, of which EUR220 million went to beet growers, EUR127 million to Greencore, and EUR6 million to machinery contractors.

At the time of the EU reforms, there were 285,000 sugar beet growers in the bloc, this has subsequently been reduced to less than 160,000.

Michael Hoey, chairman of Beet Ireland, told The Irish Times the group had a viable business plan ready to go and that it favoured developing a collaborative model with farmers analogous to the dairy industry.

"Basically you're looking at between 27,000 and 30,000 hectares of beet to produce about 200,000 tonnes of sugar," he said.