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Dairy mould breakers look to the future

The founding of Bord Bainne, the precursor of the Irish Dairy Board (IDB), in 1961 was a key turning point in the development of the Irish dairy industry.

The move facilitated the rapid expansion of the sector by providing a dedicated export marketing arm for the first time.

Over the past 50 years, the board has continued to be the leading force in export markets for Irish dairy produce.

With the launch in 1962 of Kerrygold, the board not only created one of Ireland's most recognisable brands, but it re-established the country's reputation as a provider of premium quality dairy produce.

It was the achievements of this period which were to act as a springboard for the massive expansion and radical changes that the sector witnessed in later decades.

Ireland in the 1950s was a bulk seller of butter into Britain, with most being bought at knockdown prices by wholesalers and blenders.

Kerrygold was to change this. It was marketed as a quality brand at a premium price and proved to be an immediate hit with consumers.

The success of Kerrygold in Britain proved that Irish food producers could compete with the best in the world if the product was right. It also provided the impetus for the board to tackle markets right across Europe.

Under the stewardship of Dr Tony O'Reilly and later Joe McGough, Bord Bainne developed markets for Kerrygold in Britain, West Germany, Russia, Lebanon, Czechoslovakia, Cyprus and even the Caribbean.


Kerrygold is now sold in up to 50 different markets and the IDB has a presence in more than 80 countries.

The board continues to play a vital role for the Irish dairy sector, with total sales through the organisation totalling close to €1.9bn. Indeed, the performance of the board was recognised by the Irish Exporters Association last year when the IDB won the Exporter of the Year award.

The next decade is certain to be another period of immense change for the Irish dairy industry and the IDB will have a crucial role to play.

The removal of milk quotas in 2015 will take the shackles off dairy farmers for the first time in 30 years and should see a massive increase in production.

Meanwhile, the Food Harvest 2020 report has targeted a 50pc growth in Irish milk output over the next nine years, with an additional 2.75bn litres being produced.

It's too early to say if these goals are achievable, but output looks set to increase and finding markets for the additional produce will fall to the IDB.

China remains the most dynamic driver of global demand for dairy products, but other countries are also opening up.

Taking advantage of these opportunities to secure new markets for Irish dairy produce will be the most immediate challenge facing the IDB.

Indo Farming