Renewed focus needed with 'dark cloud' of Brexit looming

Supplies three years ahead of FoodHarvest 2020 targets

Dairygold chief executive Jim Woulfe
Dairygold chief executive Jim Woulfe

Olivia Kelleher

Dairygold CEO Jim Woulfe has spoken of the need for a long pre-Brexit transitional period insisting that "knee-jerk" reactions are a non runner when you are working with perishable products.

Mr Woulfe used his address at the official opening of Dairygold's new €86m Nutritional Campus in Mallow, Co Cork to appeal for increased Government assistance in the dairy sector.

"I can't leave the opportunity go without re-emphasising the requirement for ongoing - and more - Government support in market research and leveraging for relaxation of State aid rules to enable financial assistance for us in moving that dial in removing that dependency on cheddar cheese for the UK market," he said.

Mr Woulfe warned in the wake of the "dark cloud" of Brexit that a renewed focus on "common sense" was needed.

"Whatever happens, the UK made their decision. But what has to happen is common sense and what common sense would say is that we need a long transitional period.

"We can understand market dynamics, we can understand political decisions but knee-jerks are not what we can do with a perishable product. I urge Government leadership and EU leadership to work with us on that."

Attendees at the expansion opening heard that milk supply this year in Dairygold is up by 105 million litres on 2016. Mr Woulfe said what is being achieved in 2017 is an increase of 55pc above what their Food Harvest 2020 baseline was in 2009/2010.

"That is a full three years in advance of the Harvest 2020 target date. Based on current milk prices and employing the economic multiplier of 1.6 times this, volume growth is worth more than €250m per annum to the rural economy of Munster."

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He said it was "payback time" for Dairygold members but that the co-operative would not be resting on its laurels as the next phase of development at the Mallow plant is already underway. The company is also investing in cheese in Mogeely, Co Cork with Norwegian partners Tine.

Mr Woulfe said that in 2011, when their members forecast a 60pc increase in production of milk by 2020, there were "many doubters and disbelievers". However, he stressed that even the most cynical had been impressed by progress to date. He added that the new expansion in Mallow was a "milestone" for Dairygold.

"It is a historic and proud day for our organisation," he said.

"Our investment here follows the very recent investments completed in 2013 and 2014 in East Cork, all part of our capital programme for growth. This chapter of investment is part of Dairygold's mapping for the future."

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