Tirlán Co-op AGM heard calls for immediate action to retain Ireland’s Nitrates Derogation

All Co-op Corporate Dairy

Tirlán Co-op’s Annual General Meeting heard calls for an urgent Government-supported national action plan and taskforce to improve water quality to deliver the best case to retain Ireland’s Nitrates Derogation.

The AGM of Tirlán Co-op, Ireland’s leading food and nutrition co-operative, highlighted the importance of preserving and securing the role of agriculture and food production in Irish society, after a challenging year due to declining global markets and difficult weather conditions.

At the AGM in Lyrath Hotel, Kilkenny, Tirlán Chairperson John Murphy highlighted the importance of the recently launched Farming for Water: River Slaney Project, a collaborative initiative designed to enhance water quality and to enable the best case to be made to retain Ireland’s Nitrates Derogation post-2026.

John Murphy addresses the AGM.

“Our farmers are taking positive action to farm more sustainably and to protect and enhance water quality. This is reflected in our €16 million Sustainability Action Payment, with over 95% of dairy suppliers taking part. We have continued to make progress on our targets through our Living Proof sustainability strategy with a reduction of 6.3% in the carbon footprint of milk produced.*

“Tirlán will leave no stone unturned to retain the derogation because it is the right thing for our environment, it is the right thing for our farmers, it is the right thing for our Co-op and it is the right thing for the economy of rural Ireland.”

Tirlán CEO Jim Bergin welcomed recent pledges by the Taoiseach, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Government and called on them to introduce an urgent national action plan, including a cross-party taskforce, to put the best case forward for the retention of Ireland’s Nitrates Derogation.

“Our farmers have shown they are willing to play their part. It is vital that the Government act swiftly as there is only 18 months remaining until a decision is made on the retention of Ireland’s derogation to allow farmers operate at 220kg per hectare. Now is the time for the Government to deliver upon its National Biomethane Strategy to develop an indigenous biomethane sector, including increased slurry and digestate capacity on-farm.

“We have seen from other countries that a successful biomethane sector will require farmers to almost double their current storage capacity on farm. It is vital that capital support structures are put in place now to aid the expansion of storage capacity which will help deliver the Biomethane Strategy and protect water quality. In addition to retaining Ireland’s Nitrates Derogation, this will enable farmers to play an important role in achieving the country’s biomethane targets and assist in meeting its climate commitments.

“An Infrastructure, Climate and Nature Fund is being established for use after 2026 to support State expenditure on certain environmental projects including water quality. Why wait? Now is the time to bring this forward and deploy it.”

Jim Bergin emphasised the need to continue to support and resource water advisory services across all farming sectors to ensure a farmer-centric practical approach to deliver on collaborative projects to improve water quality. He also highlighted the importance of consistently tracking progress through science-based measurement. 

Shareholder highlights

In the midst of a challenging year, the performance of the Co-op remained strong, with an equity book value of €1.3 billion.

The AGM heard a continued focus on financial discipline delivered significantly reduced core net debt, down from €234 million in 2022 to €155 million last year, the lowest level in a decade.

The Co-op paid a dividend of 19.058 cent per share to Members for 2023, amounting to €6.5 million. There has been a 27.1% rise in the Co-op dividend payment since 2020.

Shareholders voted in favour of approving a 10% increase in the share interest (dividend) payment per share to 20.96 cent per share.

Tirlán Chairperson John Murphy highlighted the distribution of value by the Co-op to its Members, with €866 million worth of Glanbia plc shares spun-out to Tirlán Co-op members since 2012.*

“The organisation continues to deliver for its Members and for rural Ireland. The strong balance sheet means the co-operative is in a robust position to meet the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. It was reflected in the €34 million weather-related support package that the organisation was able to deliver for farmers this springtime.”

Jim Bergin, who is retiring from his position as CEO of Tirlán later this year, was thanked for his contribution to the Co-op and advocacy on behalf of farmers over a 40-year career.

Jim Bergin pictured during his address to the AGM attendees.

He highlighted the progress at the new Kilkenny Cheese joint venture at Belview which is bringing continental cheese varieties to new markets.

“The performance of our organisation in a challenging year reflects the underlying strengths of the business. As we look to the future, we have developed a talented workforce, a network of high-spec facilities with an increased focus on R&D and an excellent community of farm suppliers. In addition, we are well set towards future investment with our €210 million Investment Fund for the benefit of our Members.”

Tirlán Vice Chairperson Pat Murphy and Board Member Paddy Whyte retired from the Tirlán Board. Both Members were thanked for their combined 20 years of service and their contribution to the Co-op during a period of development. They have been replaced by James O’Brien and James Finn.


*The carbon footprint of milk production has declined 6.3% to 0.89kg CO2e/kg FPCM (Fat and Protein Corrected Milk) since 2018.Valued using Glanbia plc

**Share price as at 5th April 2024


First Published 9 May 2024


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