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Farmers and workers lose out while Greencore prepares for property bonanza

28 July, 2006

Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris speaking in Mallow this morning where he met with former workers at the sugar beet plant said it is a disgrace that beet growers and workers are losing out while Greencore prepares for a property bonanza. Deputy Ferris said 'Not only have Greencore received €98 million as part of the sweet heart deal with the government, they are now preparing to dispose of property assets worth hundreds of millions.' The government need to intervene to prevent the sale of these sites and they need to ensure that Greencore honour the redundancy package which they agreed with workers in Mallow.'

Deputy Ferris said, "The decision by the Irish government to compensate Greencore to the tune of €98 million for shutting down the sugar beet industry was a disgrace. And to make matters worse the company are now attempting to renege on a previously agreed redundancy package with workers in Mallow and are preparing to sell off assets in Ireland worth hundreds of millions. It is a disgrace that beet growers and workers are losing out while Greencore are preparing for a property bonanza.

"Greencore are sitting on vast property assets with a 300 acre site in Mallow and a 290 acre site at the Carlow sugar factory which closed last year. It also owns property in Thurles and Wellington Bridge in Wexford. According to recent media reports Greencore is already seeking planning permission from Carlow County Council to build apartments and shops and stockbroker Dolmen Securities has estimated the land to be worth in excess of €150million.

"The government's reluctance to intervene is hard to understand since they hold the key golden share in the company and the consent of the Minister is supposed to be required before Greencore can dispose of more than 20% of its assets. This is meant to protect the interests of growers and workers and stop the company being asset stripped by speculators. However the recent acquisition by billionaire property developer Liam Carroll of a 21.57% stake in Greencore makes it clear what the real intent is here.

"The government have made an absolute mess of this whole situation. They are allowing an industry built up over decades to be wiped out because Greencore no longer wants to be involved in the industry in Ireland. The very viability of small to medium sized farms in counties like Cork, Kerry, Wexford, Laois, Carlow and Kildare is now threatened.

"The sugar beet industry is viable and new markets can be opened up. Sinn Féin has called for the government to intervene to prevent the plants at Mallow and Carlow from being sold off and to adapt the plants for the production of bio-fuels. A Teagasc expert has estimated that it would cost between €50-60 million to construct a plant for bio-fuel, whereas to convert an existing sugar plant would cost in the region of €20 million so it makes economic sense to act now. Time is running out for the government to intervene and stop the destruction of these plants. They need to act now." ENDS

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