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Posted 06 December 2011

Study presents strong business case for revival of Irish Sugar Industry

A strong business case for the revival of the Irish sugar industry has been outlined in a feasibility study completed by the Irish Sugar Beet Bio-Refinery Group, which included Ireland’s foremost tillage scientist, Professor Jimmy Burke from University College Dublin.

The Group also included former senior executives in Irish Sugar and Greencore, and farmer representatives. The financial figures were verified by international consultancy firm, PwC.

The study proposes the establishment of an integrated bio-refinery plant for the production of sugar and ethanol from sugar beet and grain.

The plant would be located on a new site in the south east, at the centre of the sugar beet growing region.  It would cost €350 million of which around €200 million would be sourced from Irish contractors and suppliers.  Thirty per cent of the required finance would come from equity investment and the balance of 70% from bank loans borrowed over 15 years. 

According to the study, the project could generate over 5,000 jobs, bring new income opportunities for farmers, eliminate imports of up to €200 million/annum and could enhance security of sugar supply for food processors and consumers.

The study group is confident that the profitability of the venture would make it attractive to investors, including potential growers of sugar beet, and lenders.

The feasibility study has been presented to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, and Chris Comerford, former chief executive of Irish Sugar and Greencore, and a member of the expert group said he is encouraged by the Minister’s positive response.

“The revival of sugar production and the development of a major ethanol facility would create additional sources of income for farmers, and the rural economy generally,” said Professor Jimmy Burke, Masstock Professor of Crop Science at the UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science, University College Dublin, one of the authors of the study.

“Sugar beet also enhances soil fertility and yields of other tillage crops,” he said.

“With improved technology and a dedicated group of skilled growers, yields well in excess of 60 tonnes/ha can be achieved.  This makes Irish sugar beet production competitive.”

“The ethanol production component of the project would make an important contribution to achieving the 10% bio-fuel substitution target by 2020,” he added.


(Produced by UCD University Relations)


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