Laois county councillors have called on the Minister for Agriculture to resurrect the Irish Sugar Industry.
At last week’s council meeting, they slammed the government decision to sell the industry to the UK company Greencore, who subsequently shut it down.
Cllr Alan Hand says it is a no-brainer to restart the sugarbeet growing industry.
“It makes no sense to import sugar at €800 a tonne when we can manufacture it ourselves. I would make the plea to have it in Laois, for local jobs,” said the Portlaoise Town councillor.
Cllr Tom Mulhall from Ballybrittas said he himself grew beet for many years.
“It was a loss to the economy as a whole. It would cost €400 million to set up a modern factory, investing in biofuel production. I would like to see it come to Laois but it will be coming to a sugar beet growing area, and that is the Midlands. It would be a huge boost to the county, the midlands and the whole farming industry,” he said.
Cllr Brendan Phelan blamed “greedy Greencore” for the loss of the industry.
“it was an absolute disgrace, all they wanted to do was build hotels. It was our greatest industry, after dairy. Mary Coughlin (then Minister for Agriculture) signed off that we can’t export it until 2015,” he said.
Cllr Willie Aird agreed it was a deplorable decision.
“Mary Coughlin left a legacy of closing down the beet factories. It would be very expensive to rebuild, but this is a ready market. The Suicre brand is not from Ireland any more,” he said.
County Manager Peter Carey said he was doing his best to attract the factory to Laois.
“I can’t comment on sites, but I have met members of various groups and we are being proactive on this. We are saying we have the centrality, accessibility and infrastructure. We are eminently suitable,” he said.
Last month Cllr Hand said up to 5,000 jobs could be created if the industry was revived.
“We’re importing sugar from Britain at the moment and we should call on the country to look at doing what we do best.” he said.