Any venture to develop a combined sugar/bioethanol production facility here would have to be a viable commercial proposition, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney told the Dáil.
He was replying to Labour TD Jack Wall who asked him to detail the number of meetings he has had or his officials have had with interested groups in relation to the reconstruction of the beet industry.
Mr Wall also sought the results of any such meetings and if others are planned or if initiatives are being developed as a result. He also asked for the up-to-date position of the sugar quota within the EU.
Mr Coveney confirmed that in 2011 he met with two separate groups who had conducted feasibility studies, into the possibility of establishing a new sugar/bioethanol facility in the country.
He said he clearly stated at both meetings and on many occasions since, both in the Dáil and elsewhere, that any plan to develop such a facility would have to be commercially viable.
He had also pointed out that any venture would have to be supported by a business case which is sufficiently robust to attract the funding from investors for the very substantial capital investment required.
Mir Coveney said he confirmed with both interested parties that it was his job to seek the earliest possible date that would allow for the growing of beet again for the production of sugar in Ireland.
“I understand from figures published by the interested groups who are investigating the possibility of building a new facility, that the overall capital cost costs involved could range from €250m to €400m, depending on what type of facility will be constructed,” Mr Coveney said.
He said his department officials have met with both feasibility study groups on a number of occasions since then to brief them on the progress of the CAP reform negotiations in Brussels, which included measures for a revised sugar regime. Meetings with both interested groups are ongoing.
Mr Coveney said he had comprehensive and extensive discussions with his ministerial colleagues from all the member states.
At the final Council of Agriculture Ministers in June, which he chaired under Ireland’s EU Presidency, he said he secured agreement as part of the overall CAP reform package to abolish all EU sugar quotas by Sept 30, 2017.
“This agreement removes, with effect from Oct 1, 2017, the sugar quota barrier for operators in Ireland or other member states, wishing to re-commence sugar processing.
“This agreement has been welcomed by those who are interested in seeking to re-establish a sugar industry here,” Mr Coveney said.
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