Irish food and agribusiness Greencore has announced plans to close its Carlow sugar manufacturing facility in mid-March 2005 in anticipation of the pending reform of the EU sugar regime.

Greencore said it would consolidate all of its sugar manufacturing at its Mallow site, where work will now begin to upgrade and increase the capacity of the plant in time for the 2005 processing campaign.

In total, 189 full-time and 137 seasonal employees will lose their jobs, with Irish Sugar’s total workforce decreasing from 614 to 288.

Greencore said the consolidation will reduce Irish Sugar’s annual cost base by around €6m (US$7.9m) by the 2007 campaign, before taking account of the costs of financing the consolidation. However, the company said the reduction in costs will only partially offset the anticipated profit reduction that will arise from the EU sugar regime reform.

“Since the initial [EU sugar] reform proposals were published last year, the viability of sugar production in Ireland has been questioned, which, in turn, has encouraged larger European competitors to target our customers. This consolidation illustrates our determination to be a competitively priced producer of sugar. Furthermore, whilst the initial reform proposals are likely to be modified, inevitable reductions in quota make the move to one manufacturing facility unavoidable,” said Greencore chief executive David Dilger.