MINISTER for Finance expects a significant boost for farming and agri-business in the Limerick region with the abolition of milk quotas across the EU from 2015.
Limerick County Council has already seen an increase in planning applications from farmers seeking to build new or redevelop existing milking parlours and yards. And Minister Noonan anticipates a significant spike in business for the producers of milk and dairy by-products as well as in livestock sales.
“There is great potential in dairy and being at the heart of a significant dairy district, there is great potential for Limerick. Dairy farmers, as a result of European policy, will not be restricted by quotas from 2015 on and from that date our young farmers, who have in recent years taken on or who are about to take on the family farm, will be able to produce as much milk as they want,” the minister said.
“We are not just talking about milk, butter and cheese but also baby formula, where we have a significant local industry, and the various other by-products,” he said.
“Of course the marts will be busier too because they will have to buy in heifers in advance and because of the decision taken at EU level we can expect to see a huge increase in the production of milk in this region.”
That decision taken at European level complemented measures already taken by government to boost farming, Minister Noonan said.
“In the last finance bill, I reduced stamp duty on the transfer of family farms specifically with this in mind,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Minister Noonan said the Mid-West was never in the running as a location for the Kerry Group’s global research facility, announced earlier this month and which will eventually bring 900 jobs to Naas. According to some reports, the region was overlooked by Kerry owing to poor connectivity options at Shannon Airport.
In a Limerick Leader interview in 2009, former Kerry Group boss Denis Brosnan said he had moved to Croom in 1986 in order to be closer to Shannon Airport as he needed good access overseas at a time when Kerry was building a global food business. But in his latter years with Kerry, Mr Brosnan found he had been using Shannon less and less. As chairman of the Mid-Western Jobs Task Force, he identified the loss of services Shannon as one of the key priorities to be addressed in reviving the economic fortunes of the region.
Reports in recent days have suggested the relative shortage of international connections from Shannon might have been a factor in Kerry’s decision to locate the centre outside of its traditional Munster base.
But Minister Noonan believes the Mid-West was never in the running.
“Kerry are a true global company now and operate all over the world. The competition was never between Naas and Limerick or Kerry but between Ireland and the UK and Amsterdam,” he said.
“It’s a great project for the country and we look forward to seeing them driving it on. Kerry have certainly not abandoned the area and I understand that they may have a significant announcement for the region before too long.”
On Shannon, Minister Noonan said he expected to see a new chief executive to run the new airport company - post-separation from the DAA - in the near future.