TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has admitted that sourcing feed materials for the coming winter ‘isn’t going to be easy’ for farmers.
Speaking at the €3.75m extension to the feed mill at Drinagh Co-Op in Drinagh village, the Taoiseach said that it was good to see other mills also increasing output to cope with demand.
‘It is also very good to see banking institutions working closely with farmers,’ he said, and he thanked the co-ops for their assistance in working with farmers over recent months during the period of unusually warm and dry weather.
Founded in 1923, Drinagh Co-Op is a dairy and agribusiness co-operative serving 550 milk producers, with a total annual production of 190m litres of milk and it also services 1,500 other farmers.
The Co-op’s investment is timely, given the need to cater for increased milk output which resulted from the removal of milk quotas in 2015. It also comes at a difficult time for farmers due to recent drought conditions, with grass growth seriously impaired.
Taoiseach Varadkar paid tribute to businesses like Drinagh Co-Op for taking the initiative by making significant investments in innovative technologies in response to a growing need for animal fodder.
Drinagh Co-Op board chairman TJ Sullivan, said the decision on the investment was made in 2016, following the removal of milk quotas in 2015. ‘By increasing production capacity at our mill, we will be able to double output to 120,000 tonnes per annum,’ he said.
He also said that increasing production output at the mill would also allow the co-op to assist other co-ops and millers during high demand periods.
Drinagh Co-Op is owned by its 2,000 shareholders and employs a staff of 260. The business operates across hardware, electrical and agri inputs, pharmacies and animal feed milling. Drinagh Co-Op’s milk is processed at Carbery Food Ingredients in Ballineen, and the Co-Op owns 35% of Carbery.
Mr Sullivan thanked the farming community and the co-op’s customers for their ongoing support of Drinagh and he paid tribute to feed mill manager Donal Murphy and his team for their sterling work.
‘Donal and his team of mill staff and drivers have been working flat out for months to ensure that we continue to support our customers and meet market demand,’ he said and he also thanked Nicholas Hannon of Glen Mill Engineering for ‘designing a top class facility and completing this project on budget’.
Before leaving Drinagh, the Taoiseach addressed the issue of sustainability in the farming sector.
‘Agriculture is the single largest contributor to carbon emissions,’ he told the large gathering, ‘running at about 32% of the total’.
But he said he firmly believed that protecting the environment doesn’t have to be at the expense of food production. Nor would displacing food production to other parts of the world do anything to save the planet.
‘So, as a government, we are determined to work with the agriculture sector to pursue an approach to carbon neutrality that doesn’t impact on food production. And our guiding principal is of sustainable intensification and we believe that this provides a way forward,’ he said.
He said that, being in Drinagh, he was reminded of the words of Horace Plunkett, father of the co-op movement in Ireland. ‘He believed we would only be successful as a country if we showed initiative, self-reliance and industriousness, and if we were motivated by quality. I think the success of Drinagh Co-op shows that he was right, these are the characteristics that have made you what you are and have brought you to this successful day today,’ said the Taoiseach.