Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to join you here today to turn the sod on this development here in Naas.
This is a big day for Naas and Kildare and will bring new benefits and investment to the region.
I’d like to thank Frank Hayes for inviting me to take part.
Kerry Group employs 24,000 people globally and already has over 3,500 employees in Ireland. I’m delighted that this figure is set to grow by a further 900 with this new facility, thereby firmly establishing Kerry Group as Ireland’s largest player in the food industry.
Since its start-up in 1972 it has grown into a leading figurehead of Irish indigenous industry with a global footprint.
When this project was announced last October, the speed with which it has taken shape could not have been envisaged.
But here we are, 9 months later, with 174 people on site and a fully functioning laboratory and administration operations already in place.
It is great to learn that a further 400 people will be employed here during the construction phase and it is expected that the centre will be complete in 2014 and fully operational in 2016.
The investment of over €100m in this project will have far reaching positive effects across our country.
Having a Global Centre of Food Innovation on this scale underpins Ireland’s world-wide reputation in food and innovation and secures our standing as a world leader in the food industry.
This project will also be a showcase to other business and industry as to the attractiveness of Ireland for investment and doing business here.
This is a great opportunity for our third-level sector to partner with the Kerry Group on joint-research programmes and of course to provide highly trained graduates to the many roles to be filled here.
One of the shining lights of Ireland’s continuing recovery has been the agri-food sector.
While the sector has had a difficult first few months in 2013 I’m confident that the ingenuity and hard work by Ireland’s farmers and food industries will ensure the sector will continue to play a leading role in our national recovery.
Ireland’s food industry is our largest indigenous manufacturing sector.
It accounts for over 10% of exports, 8% of GDP and employs almost 160,000 people in Ireland.
Globally, demand for premium food and drink is growing and our ability to meet those needs must be at the heart of any long-term strategy.
The Government’s Action Plan for Jobs and Food Harvest 2020, developed in conjunction with Industry, is the Government’s strategic roadmap for the development of the food industry. It sets out very ambitious targets for the sector.
With private sector employment growing at 2,000 jobs a month the Action Plan for Jobs is designed to remove the barriers hindering employment creation and promote certain industries which can have big impacts on the economy.
In the Agri-food sector we plan to optimise the dairy sector’s export and investment potential through the introduction of a sustainability and quality programme for the dairy sector in advance of the abolition of milk quotas.
Irish milk output is projected to increase by 50% by 2020 and this will create a significant number of jobs across the country.
We are also working to achieve the target of 75% of food and drink exports being supplied by companies participating in the ‘Origin Green’ sustainability charter by the end of 2014.
In addition to improving competitiveness and efficiency for all farm enterprises the Government has put in place a number of measures to support the next generation of farming.
These include favourable tax treatment for young farmers, focused groups at farm level to deliver technology adoption programmes, land restructuring relief and increased usage of genomic selection in animal breeding programmes.
These reforms highlight Ireland’s ambition to become the best small country in the world for business.
The Kerry Group is a shining example of a company actively showing the world and industry that this is true.
This investment in Naas is an investment in brand Ireland and a significant endorsement of the Irish food sector.
Everyone involved in ensuring that this project was homed in Ireland should feel very proud today and we will watch progress with interest.
I wish all involved in the hard work in getting this centre up and running the very best of luck and every success in the future.
I look forward to visiting the completed centre.