Tipperary farmers urged to bid for renewal of sugar beet industry

Farm bodies in Co. Tipperary, and all other interested stakeholders, must consider making submissions on plans to revive the sugar beet industry, independent TD Mattie McGrath has stated.

His comments follow announcements at an Irish Grain Growers Association (IGGA) meeting in Co. Wexford last night, where tillage farmers were informed that a new sugar beet factory site is being considered on the Carlow-Kildare border.

McGrath said: “Tipperary, particularly Clonmel and Thurles, have a very strong history of beet production.

It would be a tremendous local boost if we were to actively work toward reviving the days when the beet industry within the county was strong and financially viable.

From an employment perspective, McGrath pointed out that there are roughly 145,000 sugar beet growers in 20 EU member states – with a further 28,000 direct employees in the sugar beet processing side.

“This demonstrates that there is a significant demand to be met. Ireland and Tipperary can play a vital part in delivering that demand.

“It is estimated that the UK alone imports over a million tonnes of beet annually from France. With Brexit coming down the tracks we can, and should, be reaching out to that market by developing and growing a fantastic indigenous industry.

“As the plans for a revived beet industry progress, it is my firm hope that Tipperary farmers will play a significant role,” the deputy concluded.

At the IGGA meeting in Bunclody, Chris Harmon – financial director of Beet Ireland, the group behind the plan – stated that “progress” had been made; however, he declined to go into greater detail on a proposed site for the new factory.

I can tell that we have made progress; but I can’t go into any detail. We have made significant progress on that site.

“We can’t have a beet industry in Ireland unless farmers are prepared to grow it and that’s what we are trying to do.

“If there is demand, willingness and a desire to grow beet in similar quantities to what we grew back in 2006 – then we are very, very interested.

We have a business model that can deliver this industry and deliver product for parts of the industry.

“We are ready, willing and able and that is where we are today. I just want you to take that message away with you,” he said.