Eire beet factories are back in business again
SUGAR beet factories reopened in Ireland this week, following a three-and-a-half week dispute between growers and Irish Sugar over price, which saw processing grind to a standstill.
Under the terms of an agreement, brokered by agriculture minister Joe Walsh and deputy prime minister Mary Harney, Irish Sugar will pay an extra k1.5/t (Ir£1.18/t) on the contract premium this year, taking the total premium to k5/t (Ir£3.93/t).
A further 90 k cents/t (Ir70p/t) will be added next season, though almost half of this will be subject to achieving certain efficiency gains.
Supplies to the companys two plants at Mallow and Carlow dried up in early November. The Irish Farmers Association had accused the processor of cutting prices by 10%, through its refusal to pay last seasons contract premium and the removal of crown tare concessions.
Last year growers were paid an average k50/t (Ir£39.52/t) for their beet, before crown tare, based on an actual sugar content of 16.75%.
Irish Sugar had said it was willing to maintain prices at last years "on account" value, but would only negotiate bonuses if the IFA agreed to a system of independent price adjudication in future years, taking into account sugar values in competing member states.
This demand has been dropped as part of last weekends settlement. But the deal does include a five-year "peace clause", under which the IFA undertakes not to disturb any of Irish Sugars sister businesses, including malting, animal feed and farm inputs.
In return, all outstanding legal action against the IFA has been dropped. At one stage in the dispute, Irish Sugar took out a High Court injunction to stop the IFAs leadership from encouraging producers to withhold beet supplies.
"It has been a time of great hardship for the countrys 3800 beet growers in a dispute that should have been resolved earlier through negotiation," said IFA president, Tom Parlon.
Production is now back to peak levels of about 8000t of beet a day at each plant. But Irish Sugar is warning its processing campaign will last an extra month, probably to the end of January. The new deal will deliver an extra k12m (Ir£9.4m) to the sector. *