SENIOR politicians opening a new €86m milk processing facility in Mallow have warned that the Irish agriculture industry will have to further diversify in the wake of Brexit.
The 22-acre Dairygold Nutritionals Campus will support growth for 2,900 milk suppliers across Munster and will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, processing up to 600 million litres of milk every 48 weeks.
Up to 1,750 tonnes of nutritional ingredient powders will be produced each week on site.
Praising the site's innovation, Phil Hogan, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, said farmers must be protected post-Brexit and new markets will have to be explored for Irish agriculture.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday announced a two-year transition period after Britain exits the EU in March 2019.
“We have a difficulty now with our nearest big neighbour in terms of the dependence we had over the years with the UK. There's no point in waiting for two or three years and waiting for things to happen,” said Mr Hogan.
“Now is the time to do something about it by working together to make sure that we get into new markets and offer financial support to that," he added.
Despite the two-year Brexit transition period announced by the UK Government, Mr Hogan urged UK Prime Minister Theresa May to push to remain in the European Union Customs Union and the Single Market.
“Nobody in the UK voted the Single Market or Customs Union. We have to keep trying to show the promised land of common sense of some of the people that have gotten out of control in recent times,” he added.
Minister for Enterprise Frances Fitzgerald said promoting diversified export markets in light of the potential impacts of Brexit is a key priority for her Department.
“This includes markets that are growing and have scale as well as markets where we are already well established but with potential for further growth,” she said.
Minister Fitzgerald added the Mallow facility is a shining example of Irish talent and resources and the opening was a “historic” day for Dairygold and the whole region.
Agriculture Minister Michael Creed paid tribute to the forward planning of management at Dairygold and said the facility was at the “cutting edge” of technology in dairy farming.
Turnover for Dairygold in 2016 was €765m with 1.3 million litres of milk produced on site. The company has 7,100 shareholders and employs 1,200 people.
Dairygold chief executive Jim Woulfe said the next phase of development at the Mallow plant is already underway and the company is investing in cheese production in Mogeely, East Cork with Norwegian commercial partners TINE.