Boyle: ‘We’d like to develop a Chinese appetite for cheddar’

Teagasc is “enabling the food sector to be Brexit ready” with a series of investments – with particular focus on diversifying for markets such as China and Asia in general, the director of Teagasc, Prof. Gerry Boyle, has said.

According to the agricultural authority’s annual report and accounts for 2019, Teagasc made a €10 million investment in Moorepark Technology Limited (MTL).

This project by Teagasc and industry stakeholders “has provided state-of-the-art pilot plant facilities for food companies to utilise”, the agency says.

A further €10 million investment in the National Food Innovation Hub in Teagasc Moorepark commenced in 2019 and has progressed through 2020.

“Together with a similar investment in the National Prepared Consumer Food Centre at Teagasc Ashtown, Teagasc is enabling the food sector to be ‘Brexit ready’,” the authority says.

Commenting on the Moorepark Technology investment, Prof. Boyle explained:

“Now we have state-of-the-art technology in place amounting to about €10 million. It’s designed to help [companies] both in terms of process development using new technologies that are more cost-effective, and also enabling them to develop new products that are more attractive in niche markets.

On a wider basis of course, we’re keen to support companies who want to diversify to other markets – particularly in the Asian market.

“If I give you one example…we’re faced with a huge challenge in relation to exports of cheddar cheese to the UK and we’ve had a project now for a number of years for cheese for China.

“We’d like to develop a Chinese appetite for cheddar – particularly challenging in that market.”

Explaining that the agency is using a “two-pronged approach”, Prof. Boyle said:

First of all we’re doing very sophisticated sensory analysis on an international scale, using cutting-edge technology in terms of how these sensory panels are put together, and then of course we’re looking at technology to develop products for these markets.

“Incidentally we also have at present, and have had for a number of years, [a relationship with Chinese partners]; we’ve developed a lab in China in collaboration with the University of Fujian.

“Covid-19 has affected our ability to move that project forward as much as we would like.”