Op­ti­mis­ing Cork’s nat­u­ral re­sources and ad­van­tages

Irish Examiner - Supplement - - FOOD & DRINK IRELAND - Jo Ker­ri­gan

As op­por­tu­ni­ties within the agri-food and drinks sec­tor have in­creas­ingly moved un­der the pol­icy spot­light, food and drinks are in­creas­ingly seen as the growth area for the fu­ture, says Conor Healy, CEO Cork Cham­ber of Commerce.

And Cork plans to be up there at the front, po­si­tion­ing it­self as a re­gion of lead­ing ca­pa­bil­ity.

“We are very for­tu­nate, in that the county has a long and rich her­itage and abun­dant nat­u­ral re­sources. Add to that the in­tel­lec­tual cap­i­tal and tech­ni­cal ca­pa­bil­i­ties you find here, and there is no doubt that Cork has a ma­jor com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage and dis­tinc­tive op­por­tu­nity,” he ex­plains.

How­ever, stresses Mr Healy, in or­der to cap­i­talise on these op­por­tu­ni­ties, it is crit­i­cal that the op­ti­mal in­fra­struc­ture, ser­vices, re­sources, sup­ports and ca­pa­bil­i­ties are in place, so that Cork’s al­ready-ex­ist­ing very rich and unique op­por­tu­ni­ties are ex­panded to the full. And that is where the Cham­ber of Commerce comes in.

Conor Healy ex­plained: “As the lead­ing busi­ness or­gan­i­sa­tion in the Cork re­gion, we have a man­date to de­velop as well as to pro­mote pro­gres­sive pol­icy rec­om­men­da­tions that aim to cre­ate an en­abling busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment and op­ti­mise the re­gion’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.”

Par­tic­u­lar em­pha­sis has been placed on those agri- sec­tors where the re­gion has nat­u­rally rich re­sources and ex­ten­sive ca­pa­bil­i­ties, in­clud­ing dairy, beef, fish, shell­fish, ar­ti­san foods and brew­ing and dis­till­ing.

It is es­sen­tial, he says, to en­sure that rec­om­men­da­tions re­gard­ing in­fras­truc­tural sup­ports, from R&D and skills de­vel­op­ment to pro­cess­ing and prod­uct de­vel­op­ment, as well as mar­ket­ing and in­ter­na­tional trade ex­pan­sion, tar­get and catal­yse growth across these key agri-ar­eas.

“We have to en­sure the re­gion is suf­fi­ciently ro­bust and di­verse enough to per­form along­side its Ir­ish, Euro­pean and world- wide com­peti­tors,” em­pha­sises Conor Healy. “Cork’s nat­u­ral re­sources and track record of ac­com­plish­ments and suc­cesses to date are tes­ta­ment to the re­gion’s abil­ity to col­lab­o­ra­tively build the struc­tures and pro­cesses that se­cure ma­jor eco­nomic and em­ploy­ment gains for both Cork and the wider do­mes­tic econ­omy.”

Cork’s Agri-strengths:

■ High­est amount of used agri­cul­tural land & largest farm size in Ire­land.

■ Lead­ing dairy pro­ducer, with world class dairy pro­cess­ing plants.

■ Lead­ing in­fant for­mula pro­ducer.

■ Ma­jor beef pro­ducer.

■ Sec­ond- long­est county coast­line, renowned for its qual­ity white fish, shell­fish, and grow­ing aqua­cul­ture out­put.

■ Sig­nif­i­cant drinks in­dus­try with lead­ing global brewery and dis­tillery pres­ence & bur­geon­ing craft beer mar­ket.

■ Ex­cel­lent R& D ca­pa­bil­i­ties & lead­ing agri-re­search in­sti­tu­tions.

■ Qual­ity higher ed­u­ca­tion in­fra­struc­ture with vast range of agri- re­lated pro­grammes from Level 5 to 10.

■ World class phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal clus­ter with nu­traceu­ti­cal ca­pac­ity.

■ Ac­com­plished ar­ti­san food sec­tor, ex­ten­sive tourism food trails and ma­jor food at­trac­tions.

There are, says Conor Healy, many unique and strate­gic op­por­tu­ni­ties which can place Cork in a prime- po­si­tion as a cost­com­pet­i­tive, en­abling and fa­cil­i­ta­tive place in which to lo­cate, ex­pand and grow agribusi­nesses.

“We al­ready have a proven track record in driv­ing de­vel­op­ments across global growth ar­eas that align with our re­gional strengths, through the col­lab­o­ra­tive mod­els of En­ergy Cork, IT@ Cork and Cork In­no­vates. The re­gion is now charged to push ahead and se­cure ad­van­tage in this area for Ire­land and the re­gion whilst si­mul­ta­ne­ously im­ple­ment­ing a model that has the ca­pac­ity for na­tional repli­ca­tion in this and other growth ar­eas rel­e­vant to re­gions across Ire­land.”

Brexit, nat­u­rally, has posed con­sid­er­able chal­lenges for Ir­ish agribusi­ness, says Conor Healy, but he is con­fi­dent that these can be met and turned to our ben­e­fit, pro­vid­ing every­one en­sures they are pre­pared and well po­si­tioned for what­ever may arise. “There is re­ally an onus on busi­nesses them­selves to avail of the ex­cel­lent sup­port and ad­vice that is avail­able. I would stress par­tic­u­larly the im­por­tance of En­ter­prise Ire­land and the lo­cal en­ter­prise of­fi­cers in sup­port­ing our agribusi­nesses. Yes, there are in­ter­est­ing times ahead, but if we all work to­gether, we can look for­ward to a very pos­i­tive fu­ture. In this, the role of Bord Bia in con­tin­u­ing to de­velop in­ter­na­tional mar­kets is all-im­por­tant.

Kevin Lane, Or­nua chief ex­ec­u­tive, Min­is­ter for Agri­cul­ture, Michael Creed, and Min­is­ter for State, David Stan­ton, in Ker­ry­gold Park, Mitchel­stown, Co Cork, the new home for Ker­ry­gold. The fa­cil­ity will pro­duce 50,000 tonnes of but­ter per an­num for ex­port world­wide. Picture: Clare Keogh

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