Sweet & Sour

In our last post we showed you Ormož Basins Nature Reserve, an extremely important bird sanctuary that was created on the former wastewater disposal pools of Tovarna Sladkorja Ormož (TSO; Ormož Sugar Factory). Now we’d like to show you the former factory itself.

Ormož Sugar Factory today, with “Ormož Sea” – a hydroepower reservoir on river Drava.

The fertile fields on the plains of the lower Drava river are perfect for growing sugar beets. And since sugar is somewhat of a strategic good, a decision was made in mid ’70 to build a sugar factory in Ormož, and to incite farmers in then Yugoslavian republics of Slovenia and Croatia to produce sugar beets.

It all went surprisingly well; the factory was completed in 1979 and the factory processed some 320.000 tons of beets per year, producing over 40.000 tons of sugar.

After the collapse of Yugoslavia the fields in Croatia were lost, but the factory managed to replace them and performed well. The perks of capitalism brought the restructuring of the factory into a shareholder company, and was bought by a Dutch company Royal Osun in 1997 (for estimated 25 millions EUR). The deal was touted as one of the great success story of emerging capitalistic economy in Slovenia.

While TSO expanded production of sugar to 62.000 tons annually (in 1999), trouble was on the horizon. The sugar prices were rapidly dropping, and with Slovenia joining the European Union tight EU regulation of sugar production were adversely affecting the profits.

In 2006 The owners of TSO decided to close the factory for good. They received 34,8 mio EUR of EU compensation, and the farmers collected 27,4 mio EUR to stop growing sugar beets. The machinery was dismantled and former beet fields are now growing wheat, corn, and rapeseed. Only the husk of the industrial behemoth remains.

After the closure of the company (and with the money safely in the pockets) people started to have second thoughts. Many say the closure was a mistake, that sugar production is profitable again, and that we should revive the factory. But as we all know, predicting is hard, especially the future; there are no sound plans for the former factory, and its empty halls still await a better future.

All kite aerial photos shot with Nikon P330 on a Rokkaku kite.

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