Teagasc’s Professor Paul Ross told delegates attending yesterday’s AFBI dairy conference that milk production is almost an organic process.

“But increased innovation must be a key driver in order to ensure that processers and farmers get the best return from their investment. Over the past number of years, Teagasc has developed a food innovation hub at Moorpark in Co Cork. This has allowed the organisation to develop close working relationships with local and international food processing businesses.

“There is a significant potential for Ireland to make further inroads into the international infant formula sector.”

Looking to the future Paul Ross indicated that Ireland must protect itself against the tremendous volatility that characterises international dairy markets.

“Given this background, the most obvious way forward is to add value,” he said

“On the issue of dairy innovation, Teagasc is working in three main areas: cheese, dairy ingredients plus the relationship between food & health. We feel that these are the areas that will deliver a useful payback to Ireland.

“Where cheese is concerned, a high proportion of the innovation has been focussed on diversification, flavour and the health attributes of these products. Significantly, this work has been centred on the development of cheeses that are not cheddar-linked.”

Commenting on the growth of infant formula production in Ireland Paul Ross pointed out that the partnership between the Irish government and Teagasc was instrumental in attracting Danone to establish one of Europe’s largest infant formula drying plants to Cork.

He continued:

“Probiotics represent a tremendous growth area for the dairy industry. This work will further cement the link between nutrition and health. There is also growing evidence to show that whey protein will provide additional opportunities for the dairy industry to further establish its health credentials.”

Paul Ross concluded:

“Adding value is the way forward for the dairy sector. But we must be ahead of the game internationally in this regard.”