Wednesday 21 March 2018

Milk quota probe at top private school nears completion

The Glanbia plant in Ballyragget, Co. Kilkenny.
The Glanbia plant in Ballyragget, Co. Kilkenny.
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

AN investigation into alleged milk quota irregularities involving the farm at the famous Jesuit-owned Clongowes school and dairy processor Glanbia is nearing the finishing stages.

The allegations first surfaced nearly four months ago when the Department of Agriculture's Special Investigation Unit began interviewing management at Glanbia headquarters at Ballyragget in Co Kilkenny.

Raymond Kenny, who is the finance director at the prestigious Jesuit-run boys' secondary school at Clongowes, subsequently admitted that an "administrative issue had arisen" during a change of management at their 400-acre Clongowes Wood dairy farm.

"Clongowes has been in consultation and is co-operating fully with all relevant parties, with a view to a timely resolution of the matter," said Mr Kenny.

The milk quota system, which has governed the amount of milk that farmers could produce here on an annual basis for the past 30 years, is due to be abolished next April.

Due to high prices and good weather over the last 12 months, farmers exceeded their national quota limit by over 50 million litres.

Farmers over quota will face collective fines of over €15m from the EU, with some individuals being hit with over-supply penalties of over €80,000.

Sinn Fein TD Martin Ferris asked the Agriculture Minister about the investigation into the college.

Mr Coveney responded that he would have "a full outcome to the case in the next week or fortnight". "Last night I got the first report back from officials in the department, having pulled together all of the different elements of the investigation which involved a lot of interviews and consideration. We also had to get legal advice," said the minister.

"It is true that a number of parties are involved – a school, a large food processing company and a large farmer who was managing farming operations on behalf of the school." Mr Coveney said the matter was being taken "very seriously".

Rumours are rife that a large Munster-based supplier with a high profile within Glanbia Co-op is embroiled in the inquiry.

Clongowes sold the last of its renowned 700-head pedigree Holstein herd last September, and looked to lease its farm to a farmer that wanted to establish a spring calving operation.

The college supplied a 1.3 million litre liquid milk quota to Glanbia - and was looking to expand milk production further.

Irish Independent

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