£20m Dale Farm factory a vote of confidence in dairy industry
One of the most advanced dairy plants in Europe has been officially opened near Cookstown.
Dale Farm's new £20m cheese and whey processing facility forms part of a £39m investment supported by Invest Northern Ireland, announced in 2010.
The expansion will help the firm compete in global markets such as China, Russia and Africa – markets in which it is developing good business for its cheese, whey protein and specialist milk powders.
Dale Farm Group is the processing arm of United Dairy Farmers, Northern Ireland's largest farmer-owned co-operative.
As well as cheese and whey products, the group produces a broad range of dairy products including liquid milk, butter and yoghurt. It also has subsidiary companies in England and Scotland.
Dr David Dobbin, Dale Farm group chief executive, said the firm has been achieving sales growth of over 30% this year.
"We are now well positioned to face the challenges coming out of the ending of milk quotas in 2015, especially with the doubling of our cheese and whey processing capacity at Cookstown, which will enable us to significantly increase the amount of milk we can process offering greater security to our members," he said.
Officially opening the facility, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said the new operation is a massive vote of confidence in the future of the dairy industry by Dale Farm.
"It will enable our largest dairy business to expand sales outside Northern Ireland with cheese sales mainly into Great Britain and Northern Europe and whey protein sales to China and worldwide," she said.
"The company is already creating a significant market presence in Britain and north west Europe for its cheddar products through its marketing activities and achievements in major competitions such as the Nantwich International Cheese Festival, the UK Great Taste Awards and, last month, the World Cheese Awards 2013 in Birmingham, the industry's most prestigious event.
"While dairy products are currently producing good returns for the industry, dairy markets have been particularly volatile over the past number of years and so investments such as this being undertaken by Dale Farm are vitally important to the future of the sector."