It is very regrettable that the Snowcream plant in Glenville is to close. This has been one of Waterford’s traditional industries for the past 50 years, using a local product and supplying a local market. An ideal combination one would think for a business.
However, in these days of multi national businesses and large plants dominating, there was a worry that this day of a plant closure could come following the merger of Avonmore and Waterford Foods.
Premier Dairies had been a takeover target of Waterford Foods and, following that acquisition back in the late Eighties, jobs went in Dublin. Avonmore had been given grant aid for a state of the art plant during that decade at Ballitore in County Kildare, just off the Carlow-Dublin road. The target here was to supply the Dublin market in ever-growing volumes.
This modern plant eventually became the main plant after the merger and the Premier Dairies plants in Dublin were closed. The Waterford plant seemed to be able to survive all these changes as it served its natural market in the south east, from Waterford to Clonmel. It had been modernised back in the Eighties and made more efficient and it seemed to be running well.
As a location for real estate development beside the Waterford Regional Hospital off the Dunmore Road, it was very valuable and this was a threat in itself, so great would be the capital gain from a rezoning from Industrial to Residential. A subsequent sale would be worth many millions of euro.
The plant has been a good provider of local employment to about 50 persons and these people, by next year, will have to seek alternative work.
Is there a chance of saving the factory? Does Glanbia not need another milk plant in the event of a major fire or production problem in Ballitore, Co Kildare. Could Snowcream act as a back-up plant to Ballitore in the event of a big problem to ensure continued production?
Guinness through Diageo has such a strategy. If the Dublin plant was down for a few weeks or had a huge production problem then 50 per cent of that output of Guinness stout could be made in Waterford. While Kilkenny’s Smithwicks plant was going to close, the Waterford Cherry’s plant was going to stay open as a back-up plant. Are there enough depots around the country to cover such eventuality? Could the same argument be made for Snowcream in Glenville.
Kilmeaden’s cheese plant has been closed and the Dungarvan cheese plant is long gone, so following assurances given at the time of the merger from senior management, which were highlighted in the Munster Express at that time, it seems that the doomsayers opposed to the merger have been proven right in the end.
The smaller plants have gone, most of which were based in County Waterford. The Yoplait plant in Wexford has survived, as have the Virginia plants in Cavan where the famous Baileys liquer is made. Some factories have also been retained in the North. A case to over turn the decision has been suggested, but this will be hard to achieve in the need to cut costs.