European Commissioner Phil Hogan firmly warned the Irish agriculture industry to further diversify in the wake of Brexit.
The commissioner for agriculture and rural development, however, also said farmers must be protected post-Brexit and new markets will have to be explored.
As British prime minister Theresa May yesterday announced a two-year transition period after Britain exits the EU in March 2019, Mr Hogan said new markets should be established in advance.
“We have a difficulty now with our nearest big neighbour in terms of the dependence we had over the years with the UK. There’s no point in waiting for two or three years and waiting for things to happen,” he said.
“Now is the time to do something about it by working together to make sure that we get into new markets and offer financial support to that.”
He was speaking at the opening a new €86m milk processing facility in Mallow, Co Cork.
He praised the innovation of a new Dairygold Nutritionals Campus, on a 22-acre site, which will support growth for 2,900 milk suppliers across Munster in the post-quota era and will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, processing up to 600m litres of milk every 48 weeks.
Up to 1,750 tonnes of nutritional ingredient powders will be produced each week on site.
The campus is a key pillar of a Dairygold expansion plan.
Its chief executive Jim Woulfe said the next phase of development at the Mallow plant is already under way, and the company is also investing in cheese production in Mogeely, East Cork with Norwegian commercial partners TINE.
Mr Woulfe says the Mallow investment delivers on the twin objectives of its expansion plan.
“This world-class nutritionals campus not only caters for our members’ expanding milk production but it also puts in place the processing technology to expand our range of higher value ingredients for the adult and infant nutritional sectors.
“This, in turn, creates more value-add for our increasing milk volumes. The nutritionals campus will be at the forefront of our nutritionals growth agenda, with further investment planned in the near future.”
Meanwhile, Mr Hogan urged the UK government to remain in the European Union customs union and the single market.
“Nobody in the UK voted to leave the single market or customs union,” he added.
Mr Hogan said “common sense” would have to prevail from UK political leaders and said the Brexit narrative had got out of control.
Turnover for Dairygold in 2016 was €765m, with 1.3bn litres of milk produced on site. The company has 7,100 shareholders and employs 1,200 people.
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