Brexit ‘a dark cloud’ on dairy sector, says Dairygold CEO

Coop opens €86m nutritionals plant in Mallow capable of producing ingredient powders in volumes of up to 1,750 tonnes a week

Dairygold chief executive Jim Woulfe (left) shows off the co-op’s new €86 million nutritionals campus in Mallow, Co Cork to (from second left) Minister for Agriculture, Food & the Marine, Michael Creed; Tánaiste and Minister for Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation, Frances Fitzgerald,; and European Commissioner for Agriculture, Phil Hogan. Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Dairygold chief executive Jim Woulfe (left) shows off the co-op’s new €86 million nutritionals campus in Mallow, Co Cork to (from second left) Minister for Agriculture, Food & the Marine, Michael Creed; Tánaiste and Minister for Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation, Frances Fitzgerald,; and European Commissioner for Agriculture, Phil Hogan. Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

 

Brexit is the “only dark cloud” hanging over the dairy industry as the sector is experiencing massive upward growth and a renewed sense of vibrancy, Dairygold chief executive Jim Woulfe said yesterday.

Speaking at the opening of a new €86 million nutritionals campus in Mallow, Co Cork, Mr Woulfe stressed that farmers were concerned about the implications of Brexit in terms of our dependency on exporting cheese to the UK.

“The uncertainty is palpable,” said Mr Woulfe. “My appeal today is that the transition period is a fundamental base.

“From an industry point of view it is really important that we get [down to] planning to diversify our product portfolio and to make alternative arrangements for that milk that is going to the UK. That, of course, is if there is a hard Brexit. There may not be a hard Brexit.”

Mr Woulfe said farmers had been bombarded with the implications of Brexit since the UK vote.

He said 60 per cent of Irish cheese produced – 95,000 tonnes of cheddar – went to the British market in 2016 for example.

The Dairygold CEO said the coop’s members have serious ambition that should see them through any hardships faced by Brexit.

“They told us in 2012 that they would produce 60 per cent more milk by 2020,” he said “We are at 55 per cent more milk by 2017. So that is good. But of course we must do it in the context of sustainability and do it right and we are very conscious of our obligations in the context of the environment.

“We are working on that agenda right now to ensure that we become best in practice in those areas.”

He said 112 jobs were created in the latest Dairygold expansion. The state of the art milk processing facility is capable of producing the full range of nutritional dairy ingredient powders in volumes of up to 1,750 tonnes a week.

While Brexit creates volatility in the market, on the plus side, there has been upward global demand for dairy, he said.

“It is our job to meet that demand. That demand is coming from Asia in particular, the Middle East and north Africa.