Representatives from Glanbia Co-op and international dairy producer Royal A-ware have turned the sod at the site of a new continental cheese facility being built at Belview in Co Kilkenny.
They were joined on Wednesday by Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar and Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue.
The Belview development is set to support the incomes of over 4,500 family farms, 80 jobs and 400 construction jobs in the south-east.
The joint venture was first announced in January 2019 and was scheduled for commissioning in 2022. It is planned that the first continental cheese will be produced for global markets at the facility in 2024.
The 18,000m2 cheese factory is being built by Kilkenny Cheese Ltd, a joint venture between family-owned Dutch dairy producer Royal A-Ware and Glanbia Co-op.
They envisage that the plant will produce over 50,000t of continental cheese per year, including Edam, Gouda and Emmental cheese varieties which will be brought to market by Royal A-ware through its established channels.
Production will require approximately 450m litres of milk from Glanbia milk suppliers each year. Glanbia Co-op currently sends some milk for processing by third parties during the peak milk supply months but it says the new facility will allow this milk to be brought in-house for processing at Belview. Glanbia says this will consolidate milk processing and reduce transport movements.
The official sod-turning was performed by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Minister Charlie McConalogue.
Speaking at Belview, the Tánaiste described the cheese factory development as a “huge boost for the southeast” which he said has “experienced significant and long overdue investment and jobs growth in the past year or two”.
Outlining the impact of Brexit, he said the “dairy sector is doing relatively well” and that “the industry has responded successfully to what was potentially disastrous”.
“Our business owners and farmers have risen to every challenge in the past number of years, and there have been many, and have worked incredibly hard to protect jobs and even grow business. I believe this facility is a perfect example of that resilience, that flexibility and determination,” he said.
Welcoming the facility, Minister McConalogue described the start of construction at Belview as a “great day for the 4,500 Glanbia farm family suppliers as well as for the wider Irish agriculture sector and Irish farmers as a whole”.
The minister said he and the Government have been “supportive of the project throughout, because of its profound importance to farming in the southeast”.
Glanbia Co-op CEO Jim Bergin said the joint venture approach with Royal A-ware “brings expertise in continental cheese production and a new route to market for our farmers”.
He said Glanbia Co-op will also benefit from the additional whey and cream streams produced by this new cheese facility.
Royal A-ware CEO Jan Anker said the Belview plant will see his company “bring high-quality continental cheese produced through a local supply chain into the marketplace”.
Kilkenny Cheese Ltd says it will “invest in highly advanced carbon-efficient processing technology” and that its “enhanced sustainability design ensures it will be a best-in-class facility”.
As part of this sustainability focus, it says it will utilise reusable packing crates, saving a substantial amount of cardboard, and incorporate new vacuum-packing machines, delivering yearly savings of over 80,000kg of plastic.