The decision by Dawn Meats to seek planning permission on the site of its former Midleton meat factory put The Dealer thinking.
Will other agribusinesses follow its lead and look to develop surplus properties, or even sites that are currently operational?
There is an obvious logic to Dawn Meats’ decision. The factory at Midleton in east Cork has been closed since 2009. Development of the site was never really a runner in the wake of the slaughter plant’s closure, given the destruction wrought by the Celtic Tiger’s demise.
However, with the current housing market scarily similar to 2005 or 2006, Dawn’s management obviously feels that the time is right to take a slice of the action.
In fact, this has the potential to be a lucrative venture for the Browne and Queally families, who jointly own Dawn Meats.
Dawn Meats’ Midleton move follows the plans by Coolmore’s John Magnier, JP McManus and Cork property developer Michael O’Flynn to develop a new suburb in west Dublin between Lucan and Castleknock.
Will these high-profile forays into the booming housing market spark debate at board level in agricultural enterprises?
Their plan for an 860ac site features 5,000 new homes, as well as a public park and other amenities, on lands which are mainly being farmed.
Will these high-profile forays into the booming housing market spark debate at board level in agricultural enterprises? Could we see a situation where dairy co-ops are once again seeking to redevelop or offload well-located agri-trading sites?
It is difficult to say. Many of the most suitable sites were sold or developed pre-2008.
There will also be some reticence within the agri-sector about moving into property.
Returning to Midleton, if I may, the redevelopment of the Dawn Meats’ site will be the final act in an eventful association with the beef processing industry. Midleton was commissioned in the early 1970s by Cork Marts-Irish Meat Packers (IMP).
However, the need for the factory was questioned by many shareholders who believed the business had ample slaughtering capacity in its existing sites at Dublin’s Grand Canal Street and Leixlip.
This deal was somewhat ironic
When operating losses forced Cork Marts out of the meat business in 1985, the IFA frustrated efforts by Larry Goodman’s AIBP to buy the plant and it was purchased instead by Kerry Group.
The subsequent exit of Kerry Group from the meat business nine years later led to Midleton’s sale to Dawn Meats.
This deal was somewhat ironic as Dan Browne – who was instrumental in founding Dawn Meats in 1980 – had been manager of the Midleton plant while working with Cork Marts-IMP in the 1970s.
The Midleton association has clearly been a long and fruitful one for the Brownes and Dawn Meats.