Simon Coveney announces 300 new jobs in food sector

Minister for Agriculture predicts Ireland to become the fasting growing dairy producer

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney has predicted that Ireland will become the fastest growing producer of dairy products over the next decade. Photo: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney has predicted that Ireland will become the fastest growing producer of dairy products over the next decade. Photo: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Mon, Jun 30, 2014, 14:04

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney has predicted that Ireland will become the fastest growing producer of dairy products over the next decade leading to tens of thousand of jobs as he announced 300 new jobs in the food industry.

Mr Coveney said that with the removal of the milk quota system, Ireland plans to increase its volume output in the dairy industry by 50 per cent over the next five years going from 5.5 billion litres of milk per year to 8 billion litres per year.

“There is no other country in the world that will under go such a massive expansion and that’s going to lead to tens of thousands of jobs - firstly on farms through the actual expansion in the numbers of milking cows but also downstream in value added products.

“The herd at the moment is 1.2 or 1.3 million milking cows and we will add about 300,000 cows to that so it’s about 25 per cent growth of the herd and on that basis, it will need 3,000 more people to milk them so that’s just the farm dividend,” he said.

“Then of course, you have transport, you have processing, you have added value, you have the cheese industry, the butter industry, the infant formula industry so that will lead to tens of thousands of jobs from the rapid expansion of output on farms,” he said.

“Suppy controls have been in place since 1984 so the Irish dairy industry essentially been operating within a straitjacket - we couldn’t increase volume and that’s why we focussed on increading value in higher end cheeses, higher end butter and other products,” he said.

Mr Coveney was speaking at the inaugural Cork and Kerry Food Forum at Cork City Hall where he announced that food business startup companies plan to create 300 news jobs within 12 months following their participation in the Food Academy Start programme

Mr Coveney explained that last year some 200 companies who had participated in the Food Academy Start Programme had created some 300 jobs nationally and the same was predicted this year when another 200 companies will participate in the programme.

“On average, they took on a job and a half per company and we’re expecting the same this year and that’s quite a conservative figure because there’s more momentum behind the Food Academy Start this year than last, year because it’s growing all the time.”

Mr Coveney instanced the 58 companies from Cork and Kerry participating in the Food Forum at Cork City Hall and pointed out that some 23 of these are scheduled to participate in the Food Academy Start programme over the 12 months.

The Food Academy Start programme involves a collaboration between Bord Bia, SuperValu and Local Enterprise Offices with the start up companies securing listings for their products with SuperValu which has 223 stores nationwide.

Mr Coveney explained that as the stores are independently owned and operated, the SuperValu retailers are able to source directly from suppliers on a one to one basis, enabling these start-up food businesses to gain their first retail listings in their community.

SuperValu managing director Martin Kelleher said the Food Academy Start initiative for start up companies was “a natural fit” for Supervalu and the 200 small food businesses will achieve sales worth €5 million next year when working with their local SuperValu retailers.

Bord Bia chief executive Aidan Cotter said participation in the Food Academy Start programme provides artisan food producers with direct access to expertise in branding, market research, purchasing, packaging and retail distribution.

“This invaluable insight helps support small companies through the challenging initial phases of growth and greatly enhances their chances of market success, it’s encouraging to see the positive benefits of this programme resulting in job creation at local and national level.”