Kilworth could be site for new sugar factor, McCarthy says
The site at Kilworth camp previously considered as a location for a new prison is being mooted by local councillor Noel McCarthy as a viable one for a new sugar factory.
BEET Ireland, one of two groups making proposals for Ireland’s re-entry into the sugar beet market, plans to build the new factory with the help of investors.
“It’s a viable proposal,” Cllr McCarthy insisted this week. Pointing out that the site in Kilworth is fully serviced, he said it is State owned and could be given over free of charge to allow the industry to be re-established in Ireland.
“It’d be a smart move for the Government, they’d be seen to be helping an industry which has serious job creation potential,” he explained. He said the Kilworth location would also be ideal in that it is located in the middle of what is being heavily marketed and promoted by State agencies as a food producing area.
“It’s a perfect tie-in, especially too with Teagasc Moorepark on our doorstep,” he said. The industry would provide substantial on-going economic benefit to the region, he added.
All that’s needed, he believes, is a concerted effort across all political parties, to lobby BEET Ireland and incentivise them to locate there. He’s planning to bring his proposal forward to all area politicians, seeking support.
There’s one obstacle to the ambitious proposal however, BEET Ireland are rumoured to have secured the Lisheen Mines site in Co Tipperary for a nominal sum and plan to build the factory there once the zinc and lead mine winds down later this year or early next year. It’s envisaged a new sugar factory will then take over two years to build.
“In the case of Kilworth, subject to the State handing over the site in a timely manner, it could be buiilt a lot quicker,” Cllr McCarthy said.
Ireland accepted compensation from the EU in 2006 to close down the beet industry here. Approval from the EU is needed to restart sugar production. Irish politicians must now persuade Europe to either abolish quotas in 2015 as originally planned, or grant Ireland a quota. Lobbying continues in Brussels and Irish politiians are understood to be cautiously optimistic about their chances. Last month Taoiseach Enda Kenny told BEET Ireland he strongly believes in the project and recognises how it would contribute to Ireland’s future economic success. Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney is also an advocate of the proposal.
The Government has said however that the estimated €350-€400 million cost of building a new processing plant would have to be borne by private investors. It’s understood there is considerable interest from private investors but BEET Ireland is anxious that growers would invest in it themselves to retain majority ownership and control.
The other company with proposals for Ireland’s re-entry into the sugar beet market is the Irish Sugar Biorefinery Group. Both groups have put their proposals to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine where they got a largely positive hearing. The Biorefinery group estimate the revival of the industry could create as many as 5,000 jobs, 500 of which would be in the construction of the new plant.
Stressing that such a proposal wouldn’t affect Kilworth Camps’s use for training exercises and manoeuvres, Cllr McCarthy asserted: “Why shouldn’t we go after this for North Cork? We cannot always sit back and watch major industry go to other towns. Now is the time to act, to make the best case we can for bringing this to Kilworth,” he concluded.