Plans by Glanbia Ireland for a €140 million cheese manufacturing facility in Co Kilkenny have been put on hold following objections by two leading environmental groups on the basis of dairy herd emissions.
An Taisce and Friends of the Irish Environment have both lodged an appeal with Bord Pleanála against the decision of Kilkenny County Council to grant permission to the global nutrition group for a continental cheese manufacturing plant in the IDA's Belview Science and Technology Park near the port of Waterford.
The project is being developed by JHOK Ltd – a joint venture between Glanbia Ireland and Dutch dairy group Royal A-Ware. Glanbia Ireland is a joint venture that is 60 per cent owned by a co-op of farmers and 40 per cent owned by Glanbia plc.
It has told An Bord Pleanála that the Irish dairy system has an important role to play in supplying nutritious, sustainable dairy both at home and abroad and that Ireland has the lowest emissions per kilogramme of milk solids produced in the EU.
The company said it already had a volume of milk currently being processed by third parties which would be processed in the new facility.
The company plans to develop a Dutch-style cheese production facility on a 10-hectare site next to an existing Glanbia milk processing plant in Belview. It expects the plant, which will employ around 80, will produce approximately 40,000 tonnes of continental cheeses in "Euro blocks" (13-15kg) annually, as well as 11,500 tonnes of value-added cheeses in sizes varying from 250g to 3kg across two production lines.
The site, which is currently owned by IDA Ireland, is expected to be acquired by JHOK.
The company had hoped to begin construction work on the project next year, with the plant becoming operational by the end of 2022.
In its appeal the Friends of the Irish Environment claimed the project was being made possible by the Government-supported Foodwise 2025 strategy which aimed to increase the production and export of dairy goods.
However, it said the intensification of the Irish dairy sector was having multiple adverse impacts in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, the deterioration of water quality and ammonia levels.
Friends of the Irish Environment director Tony Lowes said such a level of impacts had not been foreseen by Foodwise 2025 so that corrective action was now required, including the destocking of Ireland's bovine herd.
He claimed an environmental impact assessment submitted by JHOK did not contain sufficient information about the impact of the increase in milk production required for the plant.
An Taisce claimed the application by the company was “premature” ahead of the details of CAP reform due to be published in 2020.
It said the same issues may arise in a similar arrangement between Dairygold and the Norwegian company Tile for a new cheese factory in Moygeely, Co Cork.
“Ireland is increasing bovine agriculture dependence at a time when the UN environment programme recommends that the world needs to move to a more plant-based diet,” said An Taisce.
An Bord Pleanála is expected to issue a ruling in the case next April.