Late last Friday evening, Aurivo Consumer Foods released a statement announcing the possible loss of 20 jobs from its butter production and packing facility in Achonry, Co Sligo. The cynic in me suspects the timing of the statement on a Friday evening was to reduce the amount of negative PR likely to come from the announcement.
Achonry is a rural area in south Co Sligo and Achonry co-op was one of the original founding members of North Connacht Farmers (NCF), which went on to become Connacht Gold and now Aurivo. Through various mergers and acquisitions, Aurivo has grown to become one of the largest dairy co-ops in the country.
Over a century
The plant at Achonry has been producing butter for over a century and through the years also operated as a pork and bacon site and an agri-retail store. It is the only Aurivo site on the famous N17 road which runs the length of Connacht and from where Connacht Gold butter was launched in the 1990s.
The site would have provided hundreds of jobs for local people over the years and many first summer jobs for the youth of the surrounding areas.
Indeed, I spent quite a few summers myself collecting pork, bacon and butter products from the Achonry plant and delivering them around Sligo, Leitrim Mayo and Roscommon along with my father, who was a meat agent for NCF and later Connacht Gold.
It is with sadness that I now hear that the jobs currently based at the Achonry site are to be transferred to Mitchelstown in Cork. This is yet another blow for jobs in the west of Ireland.
While no one can doubt that the financial performance of Aurivo over the last number of years has improved significantly, particularly the reduction in debt, this has come at a cost to jobs in Sligo, particularly in the south of the county.
Over the last few years Aurivo has ceased liquid milk production at Sligo Dairies, with the transfer of this business to Killygordon in Donegal, and now butter production is being transferred to Cork. Recently the Aurivo headquarters moved to Sligo town from its founding base in Tubbercurry, which hugely affected the south Sligo town and its local employees.
I hear a lot about the consolidation of dairy co-ops in the country. Apparently we have too many and they need to consolidate to improve efficiency and performance. This consolidation seems to be a slow process and the dairy farmer is seeing little of this efficiency improvement in his or her monthly milk cheque.
It’s time for the directors and management of Aurivo to tell their shareholders and employees where they see the future of the company, but at the same time, they need to remember where the company came from and those who helped build it.