Calls to turn Mallow factory into biofuel plant

Calls to turn Mallow factory into biofuel plant
The Greencore Mallow Sugar Factory. /Picture Denis Minihan

The Government and Greencore are being asked to turn Ireland's last sugar factory into a biofuel plant.

The former Greencore plant in Mallow, County Cork closed in controversial circumstances in May 2006 with the loss of 240 jobs. It ceased operations after 77 years as a result of EU reforms.

A subsequent report four years later from the EU Court of Auditors said it shouldn't have closed. In an analysis of the EU’s €11 billion sugar industry reforms, the auditors found the European Commission was working off old figures for Ireland that did not take into account Greencore’s consolidation as a result of closing its other sugar plant in Carlow.

It also found that the EU was having to import sugar because an insufficient amount was being produced by member states. At the time, Irish member of the Court of Auditors Eoin O’Shea said it appeared the Mallow plant, which was worth €150 million annually to Irish farmers, should not have been closed.

At a meeting of the county council's Northern Division, Cllr John Paul O'Shea won unanimous support from colleagues when he said the local authority should write to Greencore asking it to outline what future plans it had for the site and investigate the possibility of using it for new bioeconomy developments.

He also said the council should write to Minister for Agriculture, Food & the Marine, Michael Creed, asking him to look at the plant for such a development.

It's important to develop that site into the future. The bioeconomy is a new venture. As a country we need to look at developing this more and that would be an ideal site. It would be remiss of us not to pursue this,” Cllr O'Shea said.

Cllr Gearoid Murphy said it is important to explore all options for the site, but the bioeconomy is one that is certainly suitable.

Cllr Melissa Mullane said there is a railway spur line on the site, which would make it attractive for a new industry.

Cllr Timmy Collins said the old sugar factory was a great employer for the region.

“It should never have closed. We're now paying more money for foreign sugar. If that wasn't a mistake I don't know what is,” Cllr Collins said. Assistant county manager, James Fogarty, agreed that the council should write to the company and Mr Creed.

He said if pressure isn't put on Greencore they will continue to do nothing with the site.

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