That was the message from the Sinn Féin team at the National Ploughing Championships today.
The Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty, along with local Sinn Féin rep Oisin O’Connell launched the party’s plan for the revival of the Irish Sugar Beet industry in New Ross today.
Mr O' Connell, the Chairperson of County Wexford Sinn Féin and a local tillage farmer, has called for the construction of new bio-refinery plant for the production of sugar and ethanol from sugar beet and grain in New Ross.
Mr O' Connell said;
“The collapse of the Irish sugar beet industry in 2006, brought about by the loss of our national quota and the closure of our processing plants, not only adversely affected tillage farmers and others directly involved in the sector, but also had a knock on effect right across Irish society. People sometimes forget that a successful industry like sugar can have huge benefits for all of society.
“The IFA estimates that farmers and farm families spend €8 billion per year in our economy. It’s thought that 300,000 jobs are supported by the agriculture, food and related industries. For every €100 of agriculture output there is a further €73 of output to the wider economy. It's very evident that a strong agri community can lift a stagnant economy like ours and help get people back to work."
Deputy Doherty pointed to the job creation benefits of revitalising the industry:
“What we need is investment in sustainable, lucrative industries like sugar beet processing. Sinn Féin is proposing the construction of a new bio-refinery plant for the production of sugar and ethanol from sugar beet and grain at a cost of €350 million. It will create 5,000 jobs and be profitable within the first year. Why? Because to be so gainful sugar beet prices need to be above €570 a tonne. When you take that sugar beet prices currently stand at €850 per tonne for imported sugar, the revival of our domestic sugar beet industry makes total economic sense."
“There are obviously those out there who may feel different. I know many beet farmers were stung hard when Greencore sold their industry away. In order to make this industry work they will need to be certain guarantees. No one company should ever again be allowed to control 100% of the Irish quota. Beet growers and those working directly in the industry must have access to fair profits. The industry will need to be safeguarded and never again sacrificed for the personal profits of select individuals."
“In the coming weeks and months Sinn Féin will be seeking to meet with interested parties whether they be ex beet farmers, rural community groups or agri contractors, to discuss how best we can resurrect the Irish sugar beet industry. In 2015 the current EU quota scheme changes and we will have a window of opportunity to revive our domestic sugar sector.”