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Cork East Fine Gael TD, David Stanton has said that Fine Gael in Government will establish a feasibility study into the possibility of re-establishing the sugar beet industry. Deputy Stanton’s comments were made at a meeting organised for potential beet growers in Midleton Park Hotel on Wednesday, 9th February 2011.

“I have been raising the importance of the sugar beet industry in Dail Eireann since 2004. I strongly opposed the shutdown of the industry which had a very damaging effect on Irish agriculture, in particular farmers in East Cork. The closure of the Mallow sugar plant resulted in 240 direct job losses and impacted on thousands of growers, contractors and hauliers and their families.

“In addition, to the numerous Dail questions I tabled to the Minister for Agriculture, I also secured a number of Dail debates on the sugar industry. I also attended many Oireachtas Committee meetings regarding the closure of the Irish sugar industry and the viability of biofuels. I was particularly happy to facilitate a presentation by the Imokilly Young Farmers Group to the Agriculture Committee on the biofuel potential of the Mallow sugar plant.

“Also following the publication of the European Court of Auditors Annual Report 2009, member of the Court travelled to engage in a discussion with the European Affairs committee last November. The Court of Auditors report raised some very serious questions over the European Commission’s reasoning used to close the Irish sugar industry, which had been successfully running for 80 years. The report described the Mallow sugar plant as “large, modern and potentially efficient”.

“I would like to see a full report, undertaken by experts, into the viability of re-establishing the beet industry in Ireland. EU sugar quotas are up for renewal in 2015 and we need to put forward a strong case for reopening that industry here. The loss of the beet industry has been devastating on many tillage farmers, in East Cork where the land is of such a high quality that it is sometimes called the Irish Paris Basin.

“I believe that re-instating the Irish sugar beet industry could be viable. There is potential for ethanol and blended biofuel production. In a trip to the American Mid-West a number of years ago, I visited an ethanol plant. Farmers were producing maize for the plant and were doing very well out of it. Why could the same not be done here with sugar beet?

“An in-depth feasibility study which scrutinises all aspects of the sugar industry is the only way we are going to see if it can be reinstated here. I believe this study should be commenced without delay.