The Irish sugar industry can be traced back to 1851 when the Royal Irish Beet-Root Sugar Factory was founded at Mountmellick. Unfortunately this attempt to replace the already substantial imports of sugar failed after 10 years.
A second attempt to establish an Irish sugar company took place in 1926 with the establishment of the Irish Sugar Manufacturing Company in Carlow. By 1933 the industry was however again in deep trouble.
The government of the day, deciding that Ireland needed its own sugar beet industry, took the decision to try to save the Carlow factory. It established Comhlucht Siúicre Eireann to operate as a manufacturing and trading concern under the Companies Acts in the same way as private enterprise companies. The State's holding in the Company was eligible for dividends.
Within twelve months the government had established three further factories at Mallow, Thurles and Tuam. The Carlow factory was at that stage producing 13,400 tonnes of sugar per annum. The country was also importing 85,000 tonnes to supplement this. By 1935 the new State-owned factories were producing 70,000 tonnes of sugar thus substantially reducing the imports. A year later almost 28,000 farmers were growing sugar beet - in 22 counties. In that year the growers produced 500,000 tonnes of beet. By 1945 the four factories were producing nearly 89,000 tonnes of sugar. That year only 156 tonnes were imported.
As the industry entered the 50s changes of direction became necessary in order to make further progress. In particular, time was devoted to soil testing in order to establish what was required to produce quality beet. Tests quickly showed an alarming shortage of lime in the tillage and pasture lands of the country. As existing privately-owned quarries were unable to meet the need, the Sugar Company opened its own quarries and soon had a fleet of 300 trucks taking the limestone around the country. This in fact was the first diversification of Comhlucht Siúicre Eireann Teo.
Side by side with the liming activity the Company also set up research centres in order to control the diseases to which beet is prone. Soon Ireland led the world in its approach to disease eradication.
Since 1982/83 the Company has been producing approximately 200,000 tonnes of white sugar annually. A longterm capital programme has resulted in Carlow and Mallow factories being substantially expanded as rationalization brought about the closure of Tuam and Thurles.
In the 1994-95 beet campaign some 1.4 million tonnes of beet was processed into over 213,000 tonnes of sugar. For the following campaign these figures rose to 1.5 million tonnes of beet and some 220,000 tonnes of sugar.
Turnover for 1994-95 was IR£128,000,000, with an operating profit of IR£24.7 million.
The Sugar Company is now over 60 years in existence. Almost 1,000 people are directly employed in the industry, while in a host of downstream and supply industries over 25,000 jobs have been established.
In 1991 with privatization the Sugar Company became part of the Greencore Plc. Group, and it is now known as Irish Sugar Plc.