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480 jobs in pipeline as work commences at €200m Belview plant

The sod has been turned on a new multi-million euro cheese plant in Belview.

Work will now begin on the factory, which will be a partnership between Glanbia and Dutch company, Royal A-Ware.

Jim Bergin, CEO of Glanbia Co-op spoke to WLR News at the site.

"It'll be an investment of €200 million," he explained, "We will have 400 construction jobs, 80 full-time employees here.

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"We will process 450 million litres of milk and we will manufacture 50,000 tonnes of continental cheeses that will be sold by our great partner, Royal A-ware, that will be sold anywhere on global markets that we can get the best returns."

Harry de Wit, a Director with Royal A-ware says it was a middle-man who brought the two companies together for this project:

"In the Netherlands, between Glanbia and A-ware there was one person in the middle who knew both companies.

"He knew of our expansion plans and our future growth plans, etc. But he also knew Glanbia were trying to find a new way to market, also on the continental cheese market.

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"So, the Dutch person brought the two companies together which finally resulted in this project."

A lengthy legal battle with An Taisce over the environmental impact the development might have was put to bed earlier this year when the Supreme Court upheld a decision to allow it proceed.

"We planned to be manufacturing cheese in March of 2022, this year," Jim Bergin said, addressing the controversy, "and we had a two-year delay as we went through the planning process.

"But we're delighted that we have worked through the process. The project has been tested in many ways at different levels in the Irish courts but we have succeeded.

"We believe that this factory will secure the future of our young farmers in the South East of Ireland and will give us a great platform for diversifying from the risks of Brexit."

An Taisce's case had been taken on the grounds that the milk production element needed for the plant would have negative environmental consequences, which should have been considered by the planning authorities.

However, Jim Bergin says many steps have been taken to reduce the carbon footprint of the factory.

"Our factory will be the most sustainable cheese factory in Europe.

"We have included many projects in the development and design of the factory, such as reusable crates - so we're replacing timber for plastic and reducing the plastic requirements by 80 tonnes a year, which is significant.

"We will use low-pressure boilers, which will reduce the energy footprint by about 20%. And we will recycle about 60% of the water that comes from the milk and use that in the factory as well.

"So, there are many things that we're doing to make this as high tech and as sustainable a factory as it can be."

Tanaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Leo Varadkar, said that the new plant will be a significant asset in terms of exports.

"This new plant allows us to move up the value chain and diversify our markets. It's important that we export not just to Britain but to other global markets. The Netherlands continues to be one of Ireland's strongest allies in the EU."

With the planning process being somewhat protracted as a result of the An Taisce appeals, the Tanaiste did admit that Ireland's planning laws could be subject to further improvement.

Production will commence in 2024 with the ribbon to be cut in March of that year. Jim Bergin says at an average price of milk, the factory will be worth €170 million annually to farm families in the South East.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine - Charlie McConologue, said Kilkenny Cheese Ltd "will contribute massively to Ireland's rural economy" and will become "one of the most efficient and sustainable continental cheese factories in Europe."

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