KILKENNY is in line to benefit from the establishment of a new sugar beet industry in the South East which has the potential to create 5,000 jobs. Speaking at the annual Kilkenny IFA (Irish Farmers’ Association) dinner dance in Kilkenny city on Saturday night, Environment Minister, Phil Hogan said he will be pushing for a new bio-refinery plant to be built in Kilkenny.
This follows the publication of the feasibility study by the Irish Sugar Beet Bio-Refinery Group. Before the old sugar beet production plant closed in Carlow town, there were hundreds of Kilkenny and south Carlow farmers involved in growing sugar beet, one of the most profitable of all farm inputs.
The initiative foresees up to 2,000 farmers growing the highly profitable crop with an average plantation of around 25 acres.
The new proposed plant would be privately owned and built on a green field site and would cost an estimated E350 million to construct. According to the figures produced by the group, the factory would process 1.2 million tonnes of sugar beet per year. Of this, 154,000 tonnes would be used to produce sugar with the remainder used to produce ethanol.
The production of the “pure alcohol” would be enhanced by processing 56,000 tonnes of grain plus molasses to produce 50 million litres of ethanol every year. “We have estimated that this pant and the entire production process could be profitable within one year, Minister hogan said.
It would also eliminate the need for E200 million worth of imports per year,” Minister Hogan said.
“Last year’s report by the European Court of Auditors found that the closure of the last remaining sugar beet factory in the country at Mallow, Co Cork was needless as the business was profitable at the time,” Deputy Hogan pointed out.
“The building of a new plant in this area would be a major boost for the construction industry and the study’s estimate of the creation of 5,000 jobs when the plant opens would be a welcome injection for the jobs market,” he said.
He finished by saying that the South East had been identified as the location for the green field site and that there was no reason why it should not or could not be in Kilkenny city or county.