At the Arrabawn Co-op AGM in Nenagh, John Moylan, Michael Kennedy, Tom Hogan and Liam Walsh Picture: Odhran Ducie
Arrabawn chairman Edward Carr has paid tribute to all, from suppliers to employees, who helped the co-op through an extremely challenging year.
Speaking at his first annual general meeting as chairman of the co-op, the Milestone, Thurles, dairy farmer said that every shoulder was to the wheel in what was a year with no shortage of extremes.
Mr Carr described 2018 as a “difficult year”.
“It was a year of extremes, particularly in a weather context. Yet there wasn’t a single milk collection missed,” he said.
Everyone dug deep. The co-op functioned as a co-op should across both the agri and processing divisions, ensuring farmers got maximum supports on the feed side and also price support for the last five months of the year, he said.
“This was particularly important as butter prices dropped significantly and there was a strong back end in the supply of milk. It was a strong test of the co-op but one passed with flying colours,” said Mr Carr.
CEO Conor Ryan told the AGM that milk supply continued to increase, with the co-op last year processing record volumes at 326 million litres - 38% more than it had in 2015.
It expected, he said, to be up a further 10% this year.
“The increase in volume has been dramatic over recent years but we’ve invested and that is now paying dividend as we are able to cater for the addition supply coming in. Last year was a challenge, and this year is a stretch again, but our investment in processing capacity through a second casein powder facility at our Nenagh plant will make all the difference,” said Mr Ryan.
This will be installed by October and will not alone allow Arrabawn to deal with extra milk supply but will put more milk into the higher value-added dairy ingredients market, he said.
“Overall, we are in a strong place,” he said. “Volumes are up and capacity is up but from a supplier perspective, a real positive is the growth in milk solids. Over the last three years, milk solids are up 41% but volume is up 38%. It reflects very well on our suppliers that they are increasing solids more than volume.
“Dairying is not without its challenges and I am on record in relation to the environmental challenges, in particular, already. I am encouraged by the willingness of farmers to focus on sustainability more and more. From a co-op perspective, we are continuing to introduce new technologies to enhance sustainability. This includes our new casein plant, with environmental initiatives there set to reduce emissions by up to 40%.”