EU funds could help revive sugar beet sector

An Irish MEP has suggested accessing funding from the European Investment Bank to help kick-start the revival of the Irish sugar beet industry.

An Irish MEP has suggested accessing funding from the European Investment Bank to help kick-start the revival of the Irish sugar beet industry.

fine Gael MEP Sean Kelly this week urged the government and Greencore to take example from the UK, where British Sugar has drawn down EIB finance of up to e120 million to drive its biofuel industry.

With EU officials due to discuss the issue at the end of January, momentum is building at home towards the possible restoration of the industry which ended in Ireland with the closure of the Mallow sugar factory in 2006.

Although the current regime whereby Ireland agreed to exit sugar processing in exchange for compensation is likely to remain in place until 2015, large crowds have attended recent public meetings in Enniscorthy, Kilkenny and Mallow focusing on the use of sugar beet in biofuel production.

EU law will require Ireland to replace 10 per cent of its oil-based transport fuel with energy from renewable sources by 2020, which will mean that we will have to greatly increase our production of ethanol and other green fuels in order to avoid costly imports.

MEP Sean Kelly said Ireland should consider a scheme similar to the British Sugar Biofuel Plant in Norfolk, which converts sugar beet to biofuel.

"With some innovative thinking and proactive use of European financial tools, we could revive our national sugar beet sector. This is all the more obvious in the context of the EU 2020 targets and the fact that the EU now has to import 15 per cent of its sugar requirements," said the Fine Gael MEP.