Optimising Cork’s natural resources and advantages
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.”
■ 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