TWO BROTHERS from Enniscorthy say their plans to construct a state-of-the-art flour mill near the town will go ahead.
Andrew and Raymond Kavanagh have been working on the project for the past five years, carrying out research and design work before achieving full planning permission.
It was hoped that the construction of the flour mill at Ballycarney would have started in 2020 but the need for an additional storage facility for the 2020 harvest took precedence, as the stores were full from the 2019 harvest.
The Kavanaghs said that took their focus off the mill temporarily, however, once the harvest was over they met with Gerry Boyle and John Spink, from Teagasc, who showed great interest and support for the enterprise.
They highlighted the importance of sustainability, carbon footprint, and food security and showed how the proposed enterprise could incorporate and achieve elements of these.
The Kavanagh brothers plan to develop the plant at Ballycarney, on a site where grain drying and storage facilities already exist in the middle of some of Wexford's best tillage areas.
Speaking to this newspaper about their plans, Andrew Kavanagh pointed out that at present 4,000 tonnes of flour is imported every week from the UK.
Now that the UK has left the EU single market, it means that flour here is now being imported from a non-EU country.
'Our every day bread we eat will be produced from flour from an non EU country,' said Mr Kavanagh.
He also mentioned that the Covid pandemic highlighted a flour shortage at the very early stages but it was the result of a logistics issue resulting from the fact there is no commercial flour mill left running in Republic of Ireland.
Around 230,000 tonnes of flour is used in Ireland annually and the proposed mill will process 300 tonnes of wheat per day to produce 235 tonnes of plain white every day.
'In year one, we hope to use 15 per cent to 20 per cent Irish wheat but with simultaneous trials and research being carried out on milling wheat grown in Ireland with Teagasc, the aim is to reduce the need for importing and increase the use of Irish grown wheat in the near future,' said Andrew.
He said questions remain with regard to Brexit and what the knock-on effect will be for Ireland but he emphasised that too much time has already been lost and commented: 'We should have been Brexit-ready and if it was built today, I would think we would be at full capacity.'
'The need for this is massive and it's also important for the bakeries in Wexford,' said Mr Kavanagh.
Once completed, it's anticipated the mill will generate at least 30 new jobs but Mr Kavanagh said it's also possible the plant will expand once it's up-and-running meaning even more jobs could potentially be created by it.
The project is expected to take between 12 and 16 months to complete once works begins but Mr Kavanagh said they have a bit of time on their side in terms of planning.
He said that if everything goes according to plan, work on the project could begin as early as the middle of 2021.
'We are ready to start building, with the mill fully designed from the building construction, to the mill equipment,' he said.
'We even to having a qualified flour miller on board to run it,' he added.
Last week, the Government announced a €100m Brexit support package for the agri-sector to help deal with the impact of Brexit.
Mr Kavanagh welcomed that news and said: 'It is very positive and with the support options discussed, including competitiveness supports for the food industry, rural development initiatives and local food supply chains could be of great benefit to us.'
He feels some of that funding should be geared towards the tillage sector and to projects like the flour mill.
His sentiments were shared by Deputy Paul Kehoe, who expressed hope to this newspaper that the Kavanagh's might be in a position to avail of funding.
'If it is going towards Brexit-related projects then I would hope that [the Kavanaghs] will be able to avail of it,' said Deputy Kehoe.
'Flour milling and flour production have been affected by Brexit so I would hope we will be in a situation where we could look at Andrew's enterprise,' said Deputy Kehoe.
However, Deputy Kehoe said that one area that will be looked at through the funding scheme is fishing which he said has been 'decimated' in certain parts of the country.
However, he agreed that tillage also needs support and is hopeful this latest funding could provide some relief to that sector.
Minister James Browne said he wasn't sure how much of the funding would be geared towards the food processing sector but added: 'I assume it will an open call process for people to apply.'
'I would expect it will be for food processing normally done in the UK for Ireland and will be geared towards perceived weaknesses in the system,' said Minister Browne.
'The entire food industry has been affected but the finer details are not out yet so we don't know yet,' he added.
In announcing the funding last week, the Government said the new capital investment scheme for the processing and marketing of agricultural products will be managed by Enterprise Ireland and will open for applications in January and Minister Browne said: 'I assume it will be rolled out as quickly as possible and administered as quickly as possible.'
'I expect it will be targeted as weak areas,' he said.
With regard to possible tariffs Minister Browne said the overall effect of Brexit remains to be seen.
'There is a myriad of documents to go through, over 5,000 pages, and that will be worked out in the next couple of weeks,' he said.
At the moment the Brexit deal has been agreed, however, until it's passed by the UK and European parliaments, it's only an agreed plan and that's a point that was highlighted by Minister Browne, who said: 'The deal was only worked out last weekend so a lot of it has to be worked out and it has to be passed by the UK parliament and the European parliament so at the moment it's [effectively] an agreement to do a deal but it hasn't been signed off on yet.'
'Until that happens, legally, nothing can be done,' he said.
Minister Browne praised the Departments of Agriculture and Business for how they've relayed information to stakeholders and said it was done as efficiently and effectively as possible to-date.
'They've relayed information as quickly as they can and that will continue,' he said.
Meanwhile, the Kavanagh's emphasised that they are keen to support local producers and that, when operational, they would hope to supply leading brands in Wexford like Stafford's, Ryan's, Irish Pride, and Kelly's Bakery and, in return, it would give these peace of mind and security that a new flour mill is on there doorstep.
Development of the mill will also be very positive news for tillage farmers and, while the knock-on effect on the sector wouldn't fully materialise immediately, Mr Kavanagh said that after about three years the benefits for tillage farmers would be hugely significant.
When the mill opens, it will mark the first time in around 50 years that a new commercial flour mill will have opened anywhere in the country.
Mr Kavanagh said while some flour packaging might say 'packed in Ireland', it's mostly imported into the country.
'People don't realise that when they buy flour off the shelf, it's possible that it might not be milled in Ireland,' he said.
Mr Kavanagh said that while there is uncertainty over whether or not Brexit will result in tariffs on flour imports, it's never been more important to have a local facility of this type in operation. He said it's another reason why having Ireland's first flour mill in operation since the 1970s has never been more important for the local economy.
In addition to the 30 full-time jobs once the plant is operational, it's also expected that around 200 jobs will be created during the construction phase of the project.