County Cork is poised to become “the world’s fastest growing developed dairy region over the next decade”.
With more than €1.2bn currently being invested by dairy farmers and processors in Cork, a report launched yesterday says this level of investment should reap a significant jobs and exports windfall for the region in the next five years.
Academics predict the county’s milk output will increase by 50% in that time as a result of the end of EU quotas and lead it to become a dairy hub “of global significance”.
There are 4,500 skilled dairy farmers in the county who each have a current average herd size of 70 cows, which produce over a quarter of the national milk output.
There’s nearly one cow for every person in the county area and it’s anticipated their future milk yield without the quota restrictions will create 4,000 jobs and increase dairy exports by €450m by 2020.
The report was launched by Cork County Council and Cork Institute of Technology, and was written by academics Dr Declan O’Connor and Dr Michael Keane. It points out that Cork is very favourably positioned to take advantage of the excellent longer term international market prospects.
The local herd already produces more than a quarter of the nation’s output and the report authors said expansion plans by highly innovative dairy processors, such as Dairygold, Kerry Group, Carbery, Danone, and the Irish Dairy Board development in Mitchelstown, bode well for the future.
“Cork is also very well catered for by excellent dairy support services in engineering, animal health, IT etc. The services available also include one of the world’s leading dairy research centres at Teagasc, Moorepark, in Fermoy, the leading dairy research teams at UCC and CIT, and the animal breeding and support services of ICBF and South-Western at Bandon. These centres are very well-integrated with industry and ready to play their full part in the years ahead,” Dr O’Connor said.
Dr Keane said that with the ending of quotas in April, Cork is poised to become the world’s fastest growing developed dairy region over the next decade.
“Given the already strong dairy base in the county, with proper planning and investment, Cork is ideally positioned to become a leading dairy industry hub of global significance,” he said.
The report states that there are a number of threats to such growth, such as bad weather, animal health problems, environmental issues, scarcity of labour, capital, and land for expanding farmers. There is also the current worry of lower milk prices.
While the latter is a major short-term concern, it is seen as part of the normal pattern of dairy commodity price volatility as previously occurred in 2009. The longer term market prospects are very favourable, they state.
The authors conclude that all of the “threats are manageable and are not likely to unduly constrain the expected major expansion now under way”.