For the first time 14 Irish farmhouse cheese makers will feature at a leading cheese trade fair, Salon du Fromage, taking place in Paris later this month from the 23-26 February.

Bord Bia will showcase one of the only two non-French national pavilions at the show by exhibiting up to 40 artisan cheeses. The well-established Salon du Fromage will be held alongside the Salon de l’Agriculture, the international agricultural show, where more than 170 exhibitors and some 6,000 visitors are expected to attend.

The Irish farmhouse cheese sector is a contributor to the dairy industry’s high-quality and sustainable reputation, with more than 50 farmhouse cheese makers producing in excess of 150 types of cheese.

According to Bord Bia, the total Irish artisan cheese sector is currently valued at more than €12m per annum at farm-gate level since growing from a small base in the 1970s.

It outlined exports have become a focus for the sector in recent years due to the upcoming abolition of milk quotas in 2015, which is expected to increase milk supply by up to 50 per cent in Ireland by 2020 and the number of dairy farms adding value on farm in the form of Irish farmhouse cheese.

According to Bord Bia’s French market manager, Noreen Lanigan: “The recent growth in exports of Irish artisan cheese to approximately €4.5m is an invaluable endorsement of the quality of Irish artisan cheese internationally. Europe, and of course France, the acclaimed epicenter for cheese, have become a priority for Irish farmhouse cheesemakers in their export targets.”

She added: “In Ireland, as each cheese is unique to each producer, this allows for innovation and creativity while respecting the values of traditional cheese making. This differs greatly to cheese available on the Continent where they are made by many farms and dairies under strict guidelines to ensure consistent standards such as Camembert. Our European counterparts see it as unique and unusual that each cheese is the result of the passion and dedication of one farm and family.”