Sugar production in Ireland is to end, following an announcement by Greencore – Irish Sugar’s parent company – that it is to close its one remain factory at Mallow, Co Cork in May.
Company executives blamed the reform of the sugar regime, which will see prices cut by 36% over the next four years.
This season’s 11.6% quota cut also made it unviable to run another campaign, as did the €25m (£17m) it would have to pay into a restructuring fund if it carried on processing.
“The continued uncertainty over the availability of a full beet supply could have exacerbated these losses further,” said a company statement.
Last month letters were sent to Ireland’s 3700 sugar beet growers asking them whether they wanted to grow the crop this season. It is thought that many who used to supply the Carlow plant, which closed last year, were reluctant to send their crop to Mallow due to the haulage costs.
But the company will also have been tempted by the compensation on offer for quitting production now, which will pay €730 (£503) per tonne of sugar quota surrendered.
The announcement prompted an angry response from Irish Farmers’ Association president Padraig Walshe who accused Greencore of profiteering without planning for a viable future.
“Greencore completely misread the EU sugar regime and the reforms of November 2005,” he said. “Closing Carlow was a fatal misjudgement.”
IFA sugar chairman Peadar Jordon insisted that none of the €145m (£100m) compensation available to Ireland should go to Greencore. The company, however, says it is entitled to €131m (£90m) of the fund.