The ending of the milk quota regime could provide 4,000 more jobs in Co Cork by 2020, new research has found. However, it warns that Cork County Council will have to invest in infrastructure requirements such as roads, water and planning to cope with the increased productivity.
Milk quotas will be abolished on March 31st, leaving farmers free to produce as much milk as they like. Cork is the State’s leading dairy county, providing more than one quarter of the total milk output so the implications for the county could be significant.
The report, by Dr Declan O Connor and Dr Michael Keane of Cork Institute of Technology, says a precise estimation of the employment benefits is difficult but research suggests that 4,000 new jobs could be created on farms, in milk processing and transport and in the wider economy.
"These would be long term sustainable jobs with the prospect of further steady growth in the decade beyond 2020," they say in their report Future Expansion of the Dairy Industry in Cork: Economic Benefits and Infrastructural Requirements. Some 1,150 of the 4,000 jobs are expected to come from direct employment on dairy farms.
The report, prepared for Cork County Council, predicts that dairy cow numbers could increase from 306,000 to 400,000 by 2020 and the county could see a 50 per cent increase in milk output. This could result in a €450 million rise in the value of output and exports from Cork by 2020.
“The tax inflow to the Irish exchequer by 2020 as a result of dairy expansion in Cork is likely to be about €100 million per annum.”
It estimates farmers and dairy processors are investing more than €1.2 billion between 2010 and 2020 in preparing for the post-quota scenario.
The report was welcomed by Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney who said similar benefits would be seen in many other rural communities.
However, the report also warns the increased productivity will put pressure on infrastructure, such as the road network and water supplies.
It says Cork Co Council will need an additional €4.2 million to 2020 for additional road maintenance and €1.5 million per year from then on. Water usage on dairy farms will increase from 8.5 billion litres to 12.7 billion litres by 2020.
“The provision of state-of-the art energy and communications networks are increasingly important if modern dairy farming and processing are to be internationally competitive,” the report says.
“As natural gas is the cheapest form of energy it was also strongly expressed by dairy processors and associated industries that a supply of natural gas should be available throughout the county.”