5 October 2006 Edition

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Sugar beet solution to bio-fuels industry

Launching Sinn Féin's discussion document on the Irish sugar industry at the Ploughing Championships in Carlow last week, the party's Agriculture spokesperson Martin Ferris TD said a revitalised sugar beet industry could point the way to a thriving Irish bio-fuels industry. Ferris was joined at the launch by Wexford councillor John Dwyer and local Carlow/Kilkenny election candidate Kathleen Funchion.

The Kerry North TD said that in the midst of a global energy crisis, Irish farm family numbers were in steep decline with a demographic to urban centres. He said the Sinn Féin proposals make the case for a new strategy in rural development that could help address both problems.

Dangerously dependant

"In laying out the case for the Irish sugar industry, we believe for many farmers its future could be in the production of ethanol for bio-fuels, providing the Irish people with an alternative and secure source of energy while stemming the decline in farming.

"Ireland is heavily and dangerously dependant on imported oil and gas. There is also a European requirement that bio fuel replaces 5.75% of petrol imports by 2010. The government's laissez-faire attitude is that we can import this to avoid fines. But why import what we can grow and produce here?

"Major European countries are using parts of their quotas to produce ethanol. Similarly countries such as China and Russia are growing increasing amounts of sugar beet to produce ethanol. The most efficient method for Ireland to maintain the sugar beet industry would be to gradually process less beet for sugar and more beet for ethanol", Ferris said.

He said two major Government interventions were needed to make this a reality. "Firstly, we need this state's quota for the production of sugar increased and this will require a renegotiation of the EU sugar regime. We also need a Government prepared to invest, politically and financially, in the development of an indigenous bio-fuels industry. This document today, attempts to contribute to the debate about how this must be done", he said.

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