Minister Coveney pays tribute to innovative Leitrim companies

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney has paid tribute to local entrepreneurs for “taking a risk” and creating a business and much needed employment despite the recession. Speaking during a visit to The Food Hub, Drumshanbo on Monday, Minister Coveney said the agri-food sector had a crucial role to play in the Irish economy well into the future.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney has paid tribute to local entrepreneurs for “taking a risk” and creating a business and much needed employment despite the recession. Speaking during a visit to The Food Hub, Drumshanbo on Monday, Minister Coveney said the agri-food sector had a crucial role to play in the Irish economy well into the future.

“We’re on a journey in the agri food sector, moving away from producing very high volumes of food for commercial export to adding more value through speciality foods such as those produced here,” he said.

During his visit to The Food Hub, Minister Coveney took a tour of the businesses already in place at the facility including Lough Allen Foods; Carraig na Breac Smokehouse; Surf Seeds; JB Foods; IBI; Natural Ireland and Bo Peep Jams, before officially opening a new venture, The Cheese Hub.

The Cheese Hub is a unique company providing a storage and a maturing facilities for organic cheese producers. A niche market was identified during a training skills programme run by the National Organic Training Skillnet and took two years of careful research and planning to come to fruition, opening its doors only a few short months ago.

Run by Sean McGloin and Paul McDermott the maturing unit is one of the first facilities of its kind in the country. At present the unit caters for organic cheddar cheese produced by Knockanore Farmhouse Cheese, Co Waterford.

The cheddar is made from organic milk sourced from 11 producers from counties Westmeath, Cork and Waterford and the idea is that the wheels of cheese, produced by Knockanore Farmhouse Cheese, are sent up to The Cheese Hub where they are not only stored and aged, but also turned and constantly monitored.

The cheddar wheels are turned daily for the first month then once a week and finally once a fortnight for up to 12 months. The matured cheddar will then be packaged and sold with a number of high-end distributors already sourced in the UK and plans to look at markets as far afield as Brazil.

At present The Cheese Hub employs two people full time and the plan is to store and mature approximately 40 tonnes of cheese this year with plans to increase capacity to 70 tonnes in 2013.

“This has been a wonderful opportunity for us and this is fantastic facility,” acknowledged Proprietor, Sean McGloin. “I think that there is a real market for value added products, especially Irish organic products.”

The Cheese Hub isn’t the only new venture to open its doors in The Food Hub. Plans are already well advance for the return of the world-renowned Bo Peep Jams range with production expected to start this Summer. The return of this brand is even more poignant for the people of Drumshanbo as The Food Hub is the site of the former Laird’s jam factory where the jams were produced until the early 1990s.

Natural Ireland, a company promoting wholly Irish, natural, organic products in the beauty and therapy market have also found a home in The Food Hub and hope to launch their own website www.naturalireland.ie next month.

Praising all those involved in the The Food Hub, Minister Coveney said “Here we are today with so many examples of skilled people making things happen, taking a risk in a recession and creating jobs and that is what we need, more entrepreneurs.

“This (The Food Hub) is a really encouraging story and I’d like to pay tribute to everyone involved. It is a brave step for the local authority and local management to get involved in a project like this and for companies to come on board but this is a real success story. These are the people who’ll help rebuild Ireland and I wish everyone the very best of luck.”