A COUNTY Limerick face mask manufacturer is producing four million masks a week and has seen its workforce rise from 48 in January to 140 at present.
Irema Ireland in Kilmallock is continuing to ramp up production to help combat the spread of the coronavirus.
It has increased production capacity to a 24/7 operation with further recruitment currently underway due to demand for its product. Job numbers at the facility will rise to 160 within weeks.
The company is jointly owned by John Rice from Killarney and Tipperary woman, Geraldine Ryan.
Its face masks carry the brand name Facemate, and the floor area at the plant has had to be increased to cater for new machines installed in recent weeks.
“At the start of the year our medical grade face masks were mainly for the HSE and clients in Europe. In January we were turning out 1.3 million masks a week and now we are doing four million and this figure is growing all the time,” Kieran O'Brien, the company’s marketing manager told the Irish Examiner.
Mr O’Brien said most of the workforce are drawn from County Limerick and north Cork.
In operation in Kilmallock since 1985, Irema has plenty of experience of global health scares having been to the forefront of providing increased global mask supply during the SARS epidemic in 2003 and the Swine Flu pandemic in 2009 among others.
The Covid-19 coronavirus is surpassing both of these in terms of global demand.
“We have been receiving a number of enquiries from the general public into purchasing masks but Irema Ireland is not a retailer and is therefore unfortunately not in a position to provide masks to the general public,” Mr O’Brien explained.
“These are very challenging times for the entire economy and it is good that a rural-based manufacturing company like ours can give good employment in Kilmallock and it’s rural hinterland. Our workforce is a mix of male and female and we have taken on a number of college graduates who are out of work at present.
“We had five manufacturing machines and four new ones have been added in recent weeks to help us cope with demand.”