|Waterford County Museum
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|Page Title :
|Expansion 1934 To 1964
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|Publication Date :
|05 October 2010
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In the late 1920s the new Irish government took major steps to rationalise the Irish creamery system, which at that stage was heavily burdened by a superfluity of creameries, low milk prices and indebtedness. The Dairy Disposal Company (DDC) was set up and given the task of buying out the private creamery sector and turning it over to the co-operatives. It was also charged with taking over insolvent co-operatives and, where possible, transferring their business to neighbouring co-ops. In 1934 the DDC bought out Shandon Dairies in Dungarvan and resold it to Dungarvan Co-op. This had the effect of doubling Dungarvan's milk supply overnight. What was more significant, unlike most co-ops which confined themselves to the production of butter, Shandon Dairies was one of the first creameries in Ireland to make milk powder, mainly for baby food, and also produced cheese. It employed almost 100 workers and had a branch at Cappagh which was also absorbed into Dungarvan Co-op.
In 1936, the Stradbally and Comeragh Valley Co-operative was taken over by Dungarvan (also via the DDC) and a further branch was established at Aglish. Around this time, ambitious plans were also devised for Dungarvan Co-op to expand into the far west of the county, where hitherto home buttermaking still held sway. A firm called Paxman & Co had a factory in Lismore where farmers' butter was blended, and they made indirect approaches to Dungarvan Co-op about the possibility of taking over the business. It was planned to set up a central creamery in Lismore to be supplied by branch creameries at Ballyduff, Tallow and Knockanore. However, these plans never came to fruition, although creameries were subsequently set up in Tallow and Ballyduff by Castlelyons Co-op in east Cork.
In 1936, Dungarvan Co-op received a further major boost when a contract was won from the British firm of Cow & Gate to supply milk powder for both the Irish and British markets. All of these developments within a short period of time had the effect of catapulting Dungarvan to the forefront of the Irish co-operative sector. By 1940, Dungarvan Co-op had the second highest turnover among Irish dairy co-ops, being surpassed only by Mitchelstown (another latecomer to the co-operative scene, having only entered the creamery business in 1925), and well ahead of the third largest co-op, Drinagh in west Cork. By 1941 Dungarvan's turnover, in real terms, was almost five times greater than what it had been in 1933.
The onset of war produced another lull in Dungarvan Co-op's growth, but the postwar recovery ushered in a further period of rapid growth which continued on throughout the 1950s, despite the generally depressed situation in the Irish economy in that decade. In 1950, co-op turnover was double the 1940 level in real terms, and in 1961 fifty per cent greater again. In 1957 the first plant in Ireland to use the new spray drying process for making milk powder was installed. By now Dungarvan was drawing in milk from outside its own immediate supply area, not just from neighbouring Waterford creameries, but also from Cork and Kilkenny. However, even more rapid growth at Ballyclough Co-op outside Mallow had pushed it into second place in the co-op turnover league table behind Mitchelstown, with Dungarvan now in third place.
In the late 1950s the Irish government decided to abandon its economic policy of protectionism and to opt instead for export-led growth which would require a movement to free trade conditions. Surveys were conducted of the main industrial sectors in order to pinpoint the changes which would be needed in order to cope with growing external competition. In the dairy sector, large-scale amalgamation of co-operatives into larger units was recommended in order to achieve economies of scale and specialisation. Diversification away from butter production into other product lines was also required. At the same time, the government gave a major impetus to dairy farmers by introducing subsidies and other supports in order to expand production so that Irish agriculture would be in a position to reap the maximum benefits from membership of the EEC, for which Ireland had applied.