Irish food and dairy exporters will have to deal with the fallout from Brexit, particularly if sterling continues to weaken, according to the head of Ornua, Kevin Lane.
Mr Lane was speaking as he attended the opening of the organisation's new €38 million Kerrygold butter-making plant that will create 65 new jobs in Mitchelstown, Co Cork.
Mr Lane said Brexit was not the result that Ornua had hoped for in the UK’s referendum in June on EU membership, but Irish food exporters will now have to deal with it.
“We are not pleased about [Brexit]. That is a hammer blow to us. We certainly didn’t want to see the vote that came in but we’ve got to deal with it.
“We supply a lot of cheese and butter in the UK and we have four manufacturing facilities in the UK, where we are employing 700 people.
“The last thing we wanted to see was sterling weaken so much after the Brexit vote, it’s a challenge for the Irish dairy industry to go into that market . . . we have got to deal with it to make sure that we can minimise the disruption to our business,” he said.
Mr Lane said the new facility in Mitchelstown will enable Ornua to achieve its target of producing 50,000 tonnes of butter per annum within four years, for export to some 31 countries, including the US, which is currently its largest market.
“We have currently €750 million of retail sales around the world and we hope to grow that to €1 billion by Year 4, when we hope to be producing 1,000 tonnes of butter a week for export,” said Mr Lane.
The new facility, named Kerrygold Park, will have the capability to produce new butter products and formats that are not currently available in Ireland, said Mr Lane.
“It greatly improves our innovation capability and our ability to deliver premium dairy products to consumers around the world.”
Vote of confidence
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed said the new Kerrygold facility was a major vote of confidence in the future of the Irish dairy industry.
“Increasing global population, urbanisation and the westernisation of diet in developing countries offers Ireland’s dairy industry significant opportunity for expansion,” he said.
“By opening new markets and developing new products, Ornua is playing a key role in delivering the demand for Irish product to meet increased supply resulting from the abolition of milk quotas,” Mr Creed told the invited audience of around 300 people involved in the dairy sector.
Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Mary Mitchell O’Connor also welcomed the new butter-making facility, saying it marked a logical development for Kerrygold.
“This expansion is important to our continued growth in export trade. Ornua’s strategy to develop Kerrygold as a global dairy brand will contribute to increase trade and employment in rural communities throughout Ireland,” she said.