The chairperson of the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee has hit out at An Taisce for what he views as a “cynical move to frustrate a major development” for the south east and rural Ireland by objecting to the Glanbia Belview cheese plant.

Deputy Jackie Cahill claims that An Taisce is using the legal system and a judicial review application to prevent the development of a Glanbia cheese plant in Co. Kilkenny.

In a statement to Agriland, the deputy said: “This plant has been widely welcomed by farming families, rural communities and the region more generally, as it sees major investment and increased production capacity of cheese for export to mainland Europe, and would [also] be a major economic boost to rural areas.”

Glanbia Belview cheese plant

The Belview plant was approved for planning permission by Kilkenny County Council in November 2019.

Following an appeal by An Taisce against that decision, An Bord Pleanála granted final permission on June 30, 2020.

An Taisce then sought a Judicial Review of that decision, which is currently being assessed by the High Court and a decision is due in the summer.

Speaking today in relation to An Taisce’s actions, the Tipperary Fianna Fáil TD and dairy farmer said: “This cheese plant is due to come on stream in 2022 and would have the capacity to produce 50,000t of gouda cheese annually for export to the continent.

“This is a vital step that the agri-food sector must make in order to diversify our exports so that we, as a country, are not so dependent on the cheddar cheese market that is almost exclusively British, in light of Brexit.

“This is not just a farming issue and I cannot make that point strongly enough. Glanbia has total milk payments to dairy farmers annually of over €1 billion.

“Ireland’s dairy growth post-milk-quotas has seen exports increase from €2 billion to €5 billion annually and the annual spend in the Irish economy by the dairy sector has doubled from €1.8 billion to €3.6 billion in the same timeframe,” he added.

Deputy Cahill commented that this money is “made locally, spent locally, and stays locally”.

An Taisce

“An Taisce is an organisation that receives some two-thirds of its funding from government – from the Irish taxpayer,” Cahill added.

“This proposed new continental cheese plant is a joint venture with a Dutch family business, Royal A-ware, a 150-year-old cheese marketing and trading company with a ready market for cheese in the EU and global markets.

“This is a vital project for Brexit mitigation, where we could start producing a new product (continental cheese) for new markets, therefore replacing the UK cheddar market.”

The deputy said the project will potentially generate 500 construction jobs in rural Ireland and there is a possibility that the Dutch company will invest elsewhere if the Belview development is not constructed in the near future.

Glanbia Belview development

The delay in constructing a new cheese production facility at Belview on the Kikenny – Waterford contributed to the co-op announcing a change to its peak milk supply measures last month.

Among the measures is a €6.7 million Voluntary Peak Reduction scheme that will be funded by Glanbia Co-operative Society.

The measures have drawn criticism from farming organisations which have described this as an ‘effective’ reintroduction of milk quotas in a different format.

Co-op chairman John Murphy has previously said: “We find ourselves in a place none of us want to be. Our investment plans are delayed as a consequence of a Judicial Review.

“Our existing facilities and cooperation with other processors can facilitate some milk volume growth at peak, but not at the level that matches our farmers’ production plans for next year.”