When we think of the Sugar Beet Industry in Ireland – Carlow, Tuam and of course my own town of Mallow become forefront memories of the past. The Sugar Industry in my own town of Mallow and surrounding areas of Kanturk, Millstreet, Newmarket served as the principal employer for many families. The inaccurate statistics and decisions of previous Governments decimated families, growers, transport, Agri Sector and local business to name but a few.
These same people are still bitter and hurt at the decimation of an industry that was profitable and viable. The repercussions of bad decisions of Fianna Fail and previous government parties today are felt in emigration, unemployment and an agri sector each day being crushed and brought to its knees, with our young farming sector now rethinking their futures in farming.
But The Sugar Industry in Ireland can and must be revitalised. We import about €250 million worth of Sugar each year. Yet we have an Agri Industry with the potential of meeting this full demand.
The removal of current restrictions placed on Ireland since the introduction of the 2006 EU Sugar Reform Regime should no longer be an obstacle. With EU sugar quotas removed from 2017, the redevelopment of the Sugar Industry can recommence without a doubt.
The Irish Sugar Bio-Refinery Group have already outlined in their feasibility study on the establishment of a €350 million bio-refinery plant in the Southeast, with the potential to generate up to 5,000 jobs. Beet Ireland have also already presented a business case for redeveloping the Irish sugar industry on twin pillars of value-added sugar and bio-ethanol production.
Both these groups made a striking economic case for the re-establishment of a secure and quality supply of sugar that is crucial to achieving the targets of Food Harvest 2020. Not only is sugar a vital raw material to a wide range of food manufacturing companies here, but sugar beet production boosts agricultural productivity in the form of crop rotation options and as good value fodder for animals.
This Government has a duty to the people to seriously reconsider the past mistakes of previous governments. We must have a strong voice in Europe. A voice who represents the people not the same voices that previously sold our Sugar Industry out and allowed companies like 'greedy greencore' to be the wealthy benefactors. We could have an industry that has the potential of in creating up to 5000 jobs across farming, construction and ancillary services. These figures should show hope to our young people abroad and here in Ireland.
Our youth and unemployed are entitled to a future in a sector that is Irish in its making and Irish in its nature.