Glanbia Co-op’s new cheese plant in Belview, Co Kilkenny, will still be producing cheese in 55 years and during that time will, at an average price for milk, pay €160m to farm families in the south-east every year.
That’s according to Glanbia Co-op CEO Jim Bergin, who was speaking at the turning of the sod at the new site last week.
The joint venture between Glanbia Co-op and Dutch dairy producer Royal A-ware, located just yards from Belview port, will produce continental cheese for global markets when completed in 2024. It will produce over 50,000t of continental cheese per year, including Edam, Gouda and Emmental, which will be marketed by Royal A-ware.
The plant will utilise approximately 450m litres of milk from Glanbia milk suppliers each year and the facility will allow Glanbia process all its own milk. It currently sends some milk for processing to third parties during the peak milk supply months.
“Our Ballyragget plant had a day like this in 1967 — that’s 55 years ago. And it is operating as well today as it operated on its first day,” said Mr Bergin. “By implication, this facility we’re embarking on building now will be here producing cheese in 2079.
“At an average price for milk, it will pay €160m to farm families in the south-east every year and by 2079, it will have paid a total of €8.8bn to the families of our farmers in this region.
“And if we apply the economic multiplier... it will have generated economic activity in this region of €17.6bn.” The plant, he said, is a statement of ambition, hope and security.
Mr Bergin also acknowledged that it had not been an easy road to date and said getting to this point was a testament to Royal A-ware CEO Jan Anker, who said, on days when there were setbacks, “a deal is a deal, what do we have to do next”.
The project, which comes six years after the Brexit referendum in the UK, would help Irish cheese processors diversify away from being so reliant on cheddar cheese exports to the UK.
Mr Bergin said that while he hoped the UK, which takes 17pc of Glanbia’s cheese, would continue to be a key market for Glanbia, the diversification in cheese products through the new plant gives the co-op “enormous diversification options”, should things deteriorate over the coming years.
The project was delayed after objections on environmental grounds and Mr Bergin said Glanbia Co-op had “concentrated on ensuring this facility will be one of the most sustainable cheese factories in the world”.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, who was also at the sod turning, said the project can be “a sustainable development”.
He also reiterated that while Ireland will be doing everything it can to reduce its emissions, that would not mean factories would close or people would have their cars taken off them or be told they have to reduce the size of their herd.
“That’s not going to happen,” he said. “And I think people worry about those things happening.”