BEET IRELAND SAYS SUGAR INDUSTRY KEY FOR AGRI INDUSTRY - The 2014 National Ploughing Championships get underway today. After a 70 year absence, the showcase event of the farming year is back at Ratheniska, Stradbally in Co Laois. Around 1,400 exhibitors will have stands at the site and over 200,000 visitors are expected over the next three days.

Beet Ireland is launching its first public fund raising effort for €6m at the National Ploughing Championships. This is the next step on the road to developing a new sugar and bioethanol industry for Ireland. 2017 is now the target date for processing sugar beet following the finalisation of the EU CAP Agreement last July by Minister Simon Coveney. Beet Ireland says this policy change has enabled the business planning for the project to continue within a clear timeframe. The group has been working with Cantor Fitzgerald to plan the financing of this major strategic infrastructural project for Ireland, which will cost in the order of €400m.

Michael Hoey, chairman of Beet Ireland, says that the agriculture industry needs more than ever to bring back the sugar industry to Ireland, adding that it would add €200m back in to the economy. He says that the country currently imports over €300m of sugar and sugar products into the country. Mr Hoey says the fund raising exercise would allow the people of Ireland to invest in a major piece of infrastructure and the money will be used for the planning process of this development. Mr Hoey says it is his firm belief that commodities will only go one way in the future.

Chris Miller, an animal feed nutritionist with Gain Feeds, says that dairy farmers are set for a 50% expansion in milk production when quotas end in 2015. This will mean more calves on farms. He explains that it takes two years for calves to reach the heifer stage, adding that heifers need to be gaining weight all through their lives. It costs about €1,500 to produce a heifer, he states.


MORNING BRIEFS - Apple says it sold nine million of its new iPhone models in three days. The company said that sales of the iPhone 5S and 5C beat previous launches of new phones. Apple said demand for the high end 5s had outstripped supply and Apple shares rose almost 6% on the news before falling back to just 4% higher. In a statement from Apple yesterday, CEO Tim Cook said that demand for the phones had been incredible, and while shops had sold out of initial supplies of the new phone, stores would continue to receive new shipments regularly.

*** BlackBerry could be sold to Fairfax Financial for $4.7 billion. Fairfax is its biggest shareholder, with about 10% of the stock, and has offered $9 a share in cash to buy the company. BlackBerry says it will negotiate with Fairfax, but also look at other options. Last week it announced 4,500 jobs cuts as it struggles with poor sales of its new handsets. It has written down almost $1 billion in losses, put down to unsold Z10 phones. Weak sales of the Z10, which was launched last January, contributed to the company's weakest sales in six years. BlackBerry, which invented the first smartphones more than ten years ago, once sold products that were so popular and addictive they were known as CrackBerrys. But its share of the global smartphone is now at 2.9, falling from 4.9% a year ago as others take over.