Farm Ireland

Sunday 25 February 2018

North Kerry farmers call for local co-op merger

Newtownsandes Co-op
Newtownsandes Co-op
Claire Mc Cormack

Claire Mc Cormack

A group of north Kerry farmers are calling for an "immediate merger" at Newtownsandes Co-op as concerns over the future home of their milk pool escalate.

Last February, Kerry Group announced plans to cease processing up to 60pc of the creamery's milk pool due to commitments to their own suppliers.

North Cork Co-op is the other long-standing processor for Newtownsandes Co-op, located in the intense dairy parish of Moyvane, with a total of 66 suppliers.

Although an arrangement has been made for Kerry Group to continue its current processing arrangement until the end of March 2018, debate over a long-term home for the milk is causing ruptures among some suppliers and the committee of management.

The Newtownsandes Farmers Alliance - a group of local suppliers that have been demanding fundamental change at the co-op since last year - are calling for a merger with Arrabawn or Dairygold.

A spokesperson for the Newtownsandes Farmers Alliance said: "We want to see a merger with Arrabawn or Dairygold, that is our preference.

"We want the best deal for the co-op but ideally a merger because we fear we can't survive on our own. There would be more long-term benefits with a bigger company and it would keep jobs here and keep the village alive.

"The problems seem to be going on forever. We're being told it's progressing but we need to see action.

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"At the moment we're farming with our hands tied behind our backs and people are very frustrated," the spokesperson said.

Newtownsandes manager Joe O'Connor said: "I'm in the process of sourcing an outlet for our milk. The board is clear on the direction of the co-op."

Confusion intensified ­recently when retired former managers Michael Liston and Dominick O'Connell weighed in with their views on the way forward for the co-op. In a letter, seen by the Farming Independent, Newtownsandes manager Joe O'Connor moved to assure suppliers that the co-op will continue to operate as an "independent entity".

He also urged suppliers to "row in behind" the committee.

"The manager is currently negotiating a second outlet for our milk pool to access processing facilities for 2018 and progress is being made in this regard."

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