Tirlán’s new cheese plant accepted its first milk this Tuesday. The plant at Belview Port, just outside Waterford city, took delivery of 30,000 litres of milk as it started the process of commissioning.

The construction phase of the project, delayed by a legal challenge from An Taisce, involved one million man-hours.

Tirlán chief operating officer, Jim O’Neill, said the plant should be fully operational by April.

It will process 450 million litres of milk a year, producing Edam and Gouda cheese in conjunction with project partners, Dutch company Royal A-ware.

Tirlán, which currently sends significant volumes of milk to other Irish co-ops for processing, will have sufficient milk to run the plant.

O’Neill was speaking at the Portlaoise meeting in the current round of meetings for Tirlán shareholders and suppliers.

Tirlán CEO, Jim Bergin, who last Friday announced he will step down later this year, gave a wide address, highlighting the extraordinary growth of Tirlán under his stewardship, initially as CEO of Glanbia Ingredients Ireland, prior to the demerger between Glanbia plc and co-op.

Bergin said that the co-op only takes a 1.5% margin, as pledged when it was buying into ownership of Glanbia’s Irish business, with everything else returned to farmers.

The average weighted milk price in 2023 was 43.6c/l, he said, acknowledging that this was 20c/l down on the extraordinary prices of 2022.

He pointed to the €6m paid out in trading bonuses on milk and grain, with a new improved trading bonus model to be rolled out for 2024. Bergin also highlighted the €6.5m paid out in co-op dividends for 2023.