Greencore ireland

Greencore’s plans to use more than 900 tonnes of Irish cheese a year in its new US sandwich-making facility show just how far ahead of the UK Ireland’s post-dairy quota ambitions are, experts have warned.

The Irish food giant announced last week it was building a $40m (£26m) facility in Rhode Island, which would use some 907,000kg of Irish cheese a year supplied by Glanbia.

The move - which marks the coming together of the export ambitions of two major Irish food players -was a sign the country had been “quicker out of the traps” than the UK in spotting post-quota opportunities, said dairy consultant Hamish Renton of Hamish Renton Associates. “Ireland’s Food Harvest 2020 plan has served as a very effective rallying point for all Irish food companies,” he said.

Dairy was more central to the Irish economy than to the British, Renton added, noting an integrated export strategy had seen the Irish government act in the role of a “prime actor or investor”.

While UKTI and Defra were now working on developing a British export strategy, the UK currently trailed its Irish cousins, he warned.

His thoughts were echoed by dairy consultant John Allen of Kite Consulting, who said Glanbia’s involvement with the Greencore expansion was “not unexpected” and a good deal for the Irish dairy industry.

Meanwhile, John Giles, divisional director of agricultural consultancy Promar International, said the UK now needed to leverage the international networks of its own large dairy companies. “The Irish are very export orientated,” he said. “Their government realised after the collapse of the Celtic Tiger economy that agriculture was important to the economy in a way it probably isn’t in the UK.”