Cáis, the Association of Irish Farmhouse Cheesemakers is appealing to Donegal people to purchase Donegal Farmhouse cheese from Kilcar at this difficult time for many Donegal based industries.
They have appealed to the retail sector to continue to stock its product and encouraging consumers to support the industry at this time.
A member survey carried out by the association highlighted fears for significant job losses and an estimated 75% drop in sales as a result of the closure of food service outlets and farmers markets which accounted for the majority of sales in 2019.
Irish Farmhouse Cheese produced in Donegal includes Donegal Farmhouse Cheese, Kilcar.
Cáis also expressed concern about finding a home for excess milk produced, on their own farms and as well as speciality milk from sheep, goat and buffalo. The association acknowledged that it was incredibly grateful for the support received by retailers to date but that continued support was required to keep the industry operational.
Buy Irish Cheese Online
To mitigate the loss of foodservice and to further support the industry, Cáis has also launched a ‘Buy Irish Farmhouse Cheese Online’ campaign to encourage consumers to purchase Irish farmhouse cheese directly from suppliers. The growing list of stockists can be accessed on www.irishcheese.ie to allow consumers to buy Irish Farmhouse Cheese and have it delivered directly to their homes.
Louis Grubb, Chairperson of Cáis and founder of Cashel Farmhouse Cheese said, “We are devastated at how the Covid-19 public health emergency has impacted on the foodservice business and the economy in Ireland. Members of our association are typically very small, independent producers with few resources behind them. They are however very significant to the fabric of rural Ireland and to the food image of our country. It is important when this crisis has stabilised, and we return to a new normality, that we still have speciality cheesemakers in Ireland. The only way we can ensure the viability of our sector is by doing everything we can to encourage Irish retailers to stock, and promote, our products at this time. We are very grateful for the support received to date on this matter.”
Cáis was founded in 1983 to foster the growth of natural handmade cheese production in Ireland. It is a professional body empowered to act on behalf of the farmhouse cheese making industry. The association currently represents 68 Irish Farmhouse Cheesemakers. These businesses are a collective group of owner-managed, privately owned farms that have carved out a niche in the dairy sector producing cheeses that are expertly crafted using traditional recipes and techniques. A full list of members can be accessed on www.irishcheese.ie.
2019 Cáis Member Survey
A 2019 survey conducted by the association outlined a very positive outlook for the industry predicting year on year growth of 15% which would results in a total of 2721.8 tonnes of cheese produced annually. The survey also highlighted that one in three members had long-term forecasting plans in place, predicting growth of 30% from 2018 to 2025.
About the Irish Farmhouse Cheese Sector
Irish Farmhouse Cheese accounts for a small percentage of overall cheese production in Ireland at 1%.
However, this must be contextualised within the broader agri-food picture where there is a massive dairy output and high levels of industrial cheese. Irish farmhouse cheese has strong brand recognition with consumers both on domestic and export markets and contributes strongly to promoting the “Irish food” brand.
The Irish Farmhouse Cheese sector is valued at €27 million at farmgate value. The sector employs some 300 people and 46% of the Irish farmhouse cheesemakers on the market have set up business in the past 9 years. Each cheese is unique to its producer and farm and the majority of Irish Farmhouse Cheese businesses are family-based with strong links into the rural community and economy. They are a product of unique interactions between people, place and pasture.
Growing from a small base in the 1970’s when cheese making in Ireland was revived, Ireland now produces a range of cheeses using cow, goats, ewes and buffalo milk. All Irish Farmhouse Cheeses are unique to the producer which differs greatly to cheeses available in other parts of Europe where they are made by many farms and dairies under strict guidelines to ensure consistent standards (e.g. Camembert or Parmigiano Reggiano).
Each cheese tells the story of the cheesemaker and the farm where it was made. Every cheese is marked with the signature of their personality. The human element is critical, just as with wine production, cheese making is a craft that can take years to perfect. It is a process that requires considerable skill, passion, judgment and painstaking development.
Farmhouse cheeses are produced across the country yet each cheese is an expression of its own particular part of Ireland, encapsulating very different elemental aspects of our landscape.
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