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It is essential that the Government continues to support the strategic importance of the Irish dairy industry into the future.

The Irish dairy industry is fully committed to a sustainable and low carbon future.

The delay in bringing a new cheese plant into production due to planning objections made by An Taisce is greatly disappointing and concerning according to ICOS – the umbrella body for the Irish co-operative movement.

The co-operative movement consists of several hundred individual co-operatives, mostly in rural Ireland. They are member owned and democratically controlled, and have their roots in the work of Horace Plunkett and his supporters in the late 1800’s. These co-operatives operate in dairy, livestock breeding, marketing, animal health, farm services, energy, forestry, group water schemes, community support, tourism, and fisheries. They represent over 100,000 individual co-op members, as well as several thousand employees.

In a statement, the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society Ltd (ICOS) said the following:

The decision by An Taisce to appeal the decision of the High Court made on 20th April 2021 is greatly disappointing and concerning. The judgement by the High Court dismissed the legal challenge put forward by An Taisce. Despite this, An Taisce continues to impede the development of a much-needed processing plant for Ireland and its dairy industry.

ICOS is not disputing the right of any individual or organisation to appeal planning decisions, and we respect their statutory role in the planning process.  That said, we strongly believe that their concerns have been considered fairly and thoroughly by Kilkenny County Council, An Bord Pleanála and the High Court. The continuation of the process by seeking leave to appeal, only serves to unduly add further delay to a valuable economic project, with direct implications for thousands of farm families.

It is our balanced view that An Taisce is using its privileged position in the planning process to pursue policy positions that fail to take into consideration the full economic, social and environmental implications of those positions – a role and function of the Government.

The proposed development is a strategic partnership by Glanbia Ireland and Royal A-Ware. ICOS is gravely concerned that the ongoing delay in the planning process is putting the ability of the dairy sector to attract future Foreign Direct Investment at immediate risk. It is nearly two and half years since Glanbia and Royal A-Ware announced their decision to proceed with the €140 million facility with the intention of commissioning the plant in 2022. These timelines have been severely delayed with significant implications for the proposed project and the farm families supplying Glanbia.

The proposed plant will be a world class manufacturing facility that will meet the highest global environmental standards and requirements. Furthermore, it will produce continental cheeses and will help diversify the product portfolio of the Irish dairy industry, and contribute to a reduced dependency on the UK market.  The ability of the Irish dairy industry to respond fully to the implications of Brexit is impacted by the actions of An Taisce.

It is greatly worrying that An Taisce appear to be using the planning process to campaign for their stated positions. We believe that these policy positions are wrong and unfairly seek to undermine the right of farm families to profitably pursue milk production in a sustainable manner, in line with EU and national polices.  It is also deeply worrying to see the increase in planning observations by the same organisation, An Taisce to individual farm planning applications.

ICOS is calling on An Taisce to reverse its decision to appeal the judgement of the High Court and we invite An Taisce to enter into a process of dialogue.

The Irish dairy industry is fully committed to a sustainable and low carbon future. The full and early adoption of the Ag Climatise Roadmap published by the Department of Agriculture in December 2020, the recently published draft Agri-Food 2030 Strategy and the roll out of the new Signpost Farm Initiative and the measures contained in the Teagasc Marginal Abatement Cost Curve (MACC) will require a coordinated response by farmers, industry and the Government. 

The comprehensive response by the State to climate change, as demonstrated by the recent Climate Action Bill 2021 will need to take into account:

  • the significant contribution made by the Irish dairy sector to the rural and national economy, exports and the provision of employment;
  • the competitive advantage of Ireland’s grass-based production system and the low carbon footprint of the sector based on international comparisons, and the associated risk of carbon leakage;
  • the contribution made by the Irish agri-food and dairy sector to global food security and supply of healthy nutrition; and
  • the scope for new research and technologies to drive mitigation in agriculture, the proper assessment of methane emissions and the accounting of carbon sequestration in national inventories.

ICOS acknowledges the challenges facing Irish agriculture related to climate change, water quality, biodiversity and ammonia. The dairy sector is prepared to respond to these challenges and is determined to meet its responsibilities. The Irish dairy industry has made a proud contribution to the economic and cultural development of the Irish State since the foundation of the co-operative movement over 125 years ago.

The Irish dairy sector is substantially owned and controlled by family farmers, which is built upon over a century and a quarter of co-operation.

What An Taisce overlooks in its public commentary relating to the dairy sector, is that unlike the FDI economy such as IT and data centres, the dairy sector makes a deeper contribution to the local economy, as every €1 of dairy sector exports represents a 90 cent spend in the Irish economy. In contrast, to the multinational sector, which has a corresponding figure of 10 cent spend in the Irish economy for every €1 exported.

As Ireland’s largest indigenous economic sector, we will continue to positively contribute to the future development of the Irish and rural economy, furthering its economic, social and environmental viability and prosperity.  Equally, it is essential that the Government continues to support the strategic importance of the Irish dairy industry into the future.