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Cork County Council calls on the Taoiseach to intervene in the Sugar Industry Fiasco

24 July, 2006

All parties on Cork County Council today supported a motion proposed by Sinn Féin's Martin Hallinan calling on the Taoiseach to personally intervene in order to prevent the destruction of the sugar factories in Mallow and Carlow. It was passed unanimously. (See text of motion below)

Proposing the motion Cllr Martin Hallinan said:

"What is happening in Mallow at the moment is a downright disgrace. I do not believe in a year when world sugar prices have risen considerably that we should have reached the end of sugar production in Ireland, but that is an argument for another day.

"To close the factory in Mallow now, particularly in the light of the Carlow closure would be an act of vandalism. Converting the factory to the production of bio fuels makes sense both economically and environmentally. We have the ability to grow the raw material - sugar beet - to produce sugar syrup out of which ethanol can be made. It would provide jobs in Mallow and a market for North Cork farmers.

"It is also in the national interest of this country that this factory converts to bio fuel production. It would mean that we would begin to provide an alternative to petroleum as an energy supply. It would mean that be would begin to comply with EU requirements that we produce 100 million litres of bio-fuel annually. It would also begin to help us meet our Koyoto requirements, since bio fuels do not produce the level of pollutants petrol does.

"Against these positive points, we have the short term interests of Greencore who now want to add to the millions they made by asset stripping this industry, by selling the factory grounds as brown field sites.

"It is important that we on Cork County Council do everything we can to encourage the retention of this plant as a bio fuel production unit. Beet production is almost as old as the state itself and the industry can continue to be a mainstay of the north Cork economy. It is time that the government stopped wringing its hands and showed some leadership. They have in their power the ability through the golden share to stop Greencore from dismantling the factories. I have seen firm legal advice that it is within their power to do so.

"And there is urgency in this. Time is not on our side. I am aware that a company approached Greencore with a view to buying sugar syrup for ethanol production and were told where to put themselves. It was made very clear that Greencores favoured option was selling the sites not carrying on production.

"To put it mildly the Minister for Agriculture was not up to the job in Brussels. At the same time as Ireland, which has an ideal climate for sugar beet production, lost it's quota of 200,000 tons, France gained 350,000 tons and Finland and Greece which have difficult climates maintained theirs. The Taoiseach should take over and go back to Brussels, embarrassing as that may be. He should also use the golden share to ensure Greencore do not dismantle the facilities in Mallow and Carlow. His Minister has been equally ineffective in the face of Greencore's determination to realise the real estate value of the sites.

"For a mere 150 million euro this industry is being sold down the river. The short term interests of Greencore should not be allowed out weigh the long term interests of Ireland. We need action and action now to save the plants. The government has the power through the golden share to prevent the destruction of the factories in Mallow and Carlow. They and only they can ensure an ethanol production industry in Ireland in the immediate future."ENDS

Text of Motion:

In the light of the appalling mishandling of the Sugar Industry by the Minister for Agriculture, Cork County Council calls on the Taoiseach to personally intervene to ensure that:

1) The Government rejects the regime proposed in European 2006 and renegotiates a deal to keep the quota.

2) The Government adopts a national bio fuel policy, in particular ethanol production involving tax incentives

3) The Government uses its golden share in Greencore to prevent the dismantling or any other action of the plants in Mallow and Carlow which would compromise its suitability for sugar syrup for ethanol production.

4) The Mallow and Carlow plants adapted to also produce sugar syrup (the basis for ethanol).

5) The Government ensure the retention of sugar making capabilities until further research is carried out." ENDS

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