Any venture to develop a combined sugar/bioethanol production facility in Ireland would have to be a viable commercial proposition.
It would also need a robust business case to attract the funding from investors for the very substantial capital investment required.
Agriculture Minister Michael Creed , replying to a Dáil question from Labour TD Willie Penrose, explained that a temporary restructuring scheme was introduced with the aim of reducing EU sugar production.
Greencore, the holder of the entire Irish sugar quota, availed of this voluntary scheme, dismantled its facilities and ceased production in 2006.
Ireland secured €353m as part of the reform package of which €220m went to beet growers, €127m to Greencore and €6m to machinery contractors.
In 2011, his Department officials met with two separate groups which had conducted feasibility studies into the possibility of establishing a new sugar and bioethanol production facility, using sugar beet, in this country.
The figures published by the interested groups indicated that the overall capital costs involved could range from €250m to €400m, depending on what type of facility would be constructed.
Mr Creed said his Government colleague, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney, informed both groups at the time it was his job to look for agreement at EU level to allow for the growing of beet for the manufacture of sugar, at the earliest possible date.
In this connection, he secured agreement as part of the overall CAP reform package at the final EU Council of Agriculture Ministers, which he chaired in June 2013, to abolish all sugar quotas by September 30, 2017.
This agreement removes, with effect from October 1, 2017, the current EU quota barrier for operators in Ireland or other member state, wishing to re-establish a sugar industry.
He said the current Programme for a Partnership Government makes clear that “State enterprise bodies will be asked to examine any substantial business plans related to rebuilding the industry with a view to considering appropriate State supports”.
Mr Creed said it is now up to those interested parties to move the project forward and to garner sufficient commercial and financial support to turn their plans into a viable reality.
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