Greencore has announced that, following an extensive review of the new European sugar regime, it will stop processing sugar in a move that looks set to spell the end of sugar beet cultivation and processing in Ireland.

The company had hoped to continue processing sugar throughout 2006 and 2007, but this option has now been ruled out. Greencore said that the sustained deterioration of EU sugar markets, the required payment of a EUR25m (US$30.399m) restructuring levy and reduced sales due to the EU-imposed 11.6% quota cut meant that it would incur ‘unacceptable losses’ were it to process sugar again.

Greencore said that it has sufficient stocks of sugar to meet the needs of Irish industrial and retail customers until November 2006, by which time it will be prepared to supply these customers under the Siucra and McKinney brands.

Commenting on the decision, David Dilger, chief executive of Greencore said: “It is a very sad day for everybody involved in sugar processing and beet growing in Ireland, not lessened by the inevitability of closure due to the EU sugar regime change.

“Since the EU sugar regime change was announced, we have worked really hard with our staff and our growers in a determined effort to have one last campaign. However, the regime change has turned an efficient, profitable operation with dedicated employees into a loss making processing business with no viable future.

“This is a difficult time for all associated with sugar processing and beet growing in Ireland. I would especially like to thank our workforce and our growers for their tremendous endeavour and commitment over many years.”

The closure of the company’s Mallow sugar processing factory has been scheduled for May.