GLOBAL food giant Kerry Group will continue to invest in its plants in Cork and Kerry, group chief executive Stan McCarthy has pledged.
Milk processing will continue to be a core activity of the group, he said, amid concerns expressed by some shareholders last week.
The group’s main processing arm has been in Listowel since the 1970s while, more recently, the group took over cheesemaking operations in Newmarket and Charleville, Co Cork.
Upwards of 1,000 people are employed in the three plants, in which €100 million has been invested in the past eight years.
Speaking after the group’s annual general meeting in Tralee, Mr McCarthy said: “While we have a global perspective, we will continue to invest in this country. Milk processing is still a core part of our business.”
Some shareholders voiced concerns that the group’s focus on worldwide growth as a top food ingredients and flavourings company could be to the detriment of local milk production.
Ardfert farmer Phil Healy said the group had humble beginnings as a dairy co-operative set up by Kerry farmers 40 years ago to find an outlet for their milk.
He said: “We must ask the hard question now: Should short-term profit be more important than buying the produce of local people?
“We must make sure we don’t forget where we came from. The reason for the setting up of the co-op must not be abandoned.”
Kerry Group has sold off all of its liquid milk (milk produced largely for the retail market) operations, with the exception of Dawn Dairies in Killarney.
Mr McCarthy said the group had taken great pains to ensure milk suppliers were adequately taken care of and they had no plans to dispose of Dawn Dairies.
Kerry Group — which had a €5bn turnover and a €470m profit last year— employs 23,000 people in 23 countries.
The Charleville and Newmarket cheese brands were also started by farmers’ co-ops and are now integrated into Kerry Group’s operations.
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