Mr O’ Connell said;
“County Wexford tillage farming was dealt a severe blow in 2005 when the sugar processing plant in Carlow was closed. Around 700 of our county farmers were engaged in this industry. The factory was closed despite the fact that Greencore was making annual profits in excess of €20 million. In fact it was actually closed because Greencore, who incredibly had been allowed to maintain the entire sugar production quota for the nation, decided to opt out after learning of the EU’s decision to radically reform the quota system for sugar protection across the Union.”
“To say this was a mistake is an understatement. Sugar beet continues to be a profitable crop, whether for the production of sugar or ethanol, and as any tillage farmer will tell you, it is a crop that benefits the ground it is grown in by actually enhancing the soil fertility and so increases the yield of the next crop to be grown there.”
“A 2011 feasibility study completed by the Irish Sugar Beet Bio-Refinery Group recommended that the industry could and should be revived in its traditional growth region of the south east through the construction of a new integrated bio-refinery plant for the production of sugar and ethanol from sugar beet and grain. It is my personal belief that there are several suitable locations in County Wexford for such a plant.”
“The construction of such a plant would cost an estimated €350 million. It would create five thousand jobs, be profitable within the first year and would bring lucrative new income opportunities for struggling tillage farmers. In order for the plant to be profitable sugar beet prices would need to be more than €570 per tonne. Current prices stand at €850 per tonne for imported sugar, and no one believes that prices would fall below €570 anytime soon.”
“Sinn Féin believes the construction of a bio-refinery plant in County Wexford could bring huge economic benefits to County Wexford and the South East. We will be unveiling part one of our document outlining the resurrection of the Irish Sugar Beet industry at the National Ploughing Championships. I would invite those with an interest to visit our tent."