Farm Ireland

Monday 19 March 2018

Protecting the cheddar - Dairy bosses seek state support on €500m cheddar trade

Cheddar cheese producers want to retain and grow their UK markets
Cheddar cheese producers want to retain and grow their UK markets
Cheddar exports alone from the 'big four' companies are valued at almost half-a-billion euro. Stock photo: GETTY
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

The country's dairy giants are seeking Government supports as they explore post-Brexit options for cheddar exports.

The 'big four' when it comes to cheddar production - Carbery, Dairygold, Glanbia and Kerry, along with the marketing body Ornua - held a meeting with the Department of Agriculture and Minister Michael Creed as they move to limit their Brexit exposure.

"Whatever happens with Brexit, it will be a catalyst to ensure that everyone works together," said Dairygold's Jim Woulfe, adding collective involvement was crucial.

"The potential of the worst-case scenario is well-known."

Irish Dairy Industries Association (IDIA) analysis has shown 90pc of the cheese output from the four manufacturing firms is comprised of cheddar, with 56.5pc sold into the UK.

Cheddar exports alone from these companies are valued at almost half-a-billion euro.

The IDIA's Conor Mulvihill warned the potential of a Brexit "cliff edge" scenario for cheddar remained a major risk as it was so dependent on the UK market.

"The loss of the UK portion of this cheddar export outlet would equate to just under one-fifth of our manufacturing milk pool, something that would hit hard into every rural parish in Ireland," said Mr Mulvihill.

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Bord Bia's Tara McCarthy said work was under way to prioritise the key markets for products from cheese to whiskey. However, she said it was all consumer-led and they had sent researchers to live with Chinese families to better understand their dairy consumption.

"It has got a huge appetite for infant formula, moving now from a country that wouldn't have a traditional association with dairy, always having had a reputation of lactose intolerance now looking to push dairy as part of the diet," she said.

Irish Independent

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