May is the peak dairy production month, something around a billion litres of milk will reach processing plants this month.
Milk production is, at the height of the season, a 24/7 operation. That means processing plants must be able to process milk as it is produced.
Meat processors’ high season falls later in the year but the same principle applies.
Any interruption to that supply-and-process chain could have significant economic and environmental consequences — as was seen when the oil industry ran out of storage in recent weeks.
Earlier this week, Dawn Meats closed a plant after four cases of coronavirus were confirmed. A second plant, Rosderra Meats in Co Tipperary, yesterday confirmed that a number of staff tested positive but that the plant will remain open.
The Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed earlier confirmed that his department was aware of six clusters at meat processing facilities. This is a fraught situation that demands concentration and cooperation.
Workers’ safety must be paramount and 45 processing plants, where nearly 15,000 people work, have implemented safety measures.
Similar measures at milk plants may be even more important, as cows will produce milk irrespective of the pandemic.
Milk must be processed as early as is possible if farmers are to maximise their high-season opportunities and any interruption at processing plants would jeopardise that. Interruption would also give rise to pressing storage issues.