Dairy co-operative Dale Farm has announced a £70 million investment in cheddar production at its Co Tyrone processing facility.

The expanded operation will see the Northern Ireland-based co-op boost cheddar production by 20,000 tonnes per year.

It marks one of the largest ever single investments by a Northern Ireland agri-food company.

A new high speed automated cheese slicing line will be established, as well as new investment in patented products and processes.

Group chief executive at Dale Farm, Nick Whelan, said the move would position Dale Farm as a 'leading cheddar player in Europe'.

He continued: “Dale Farm has built a strong reputation as a leader in cheddar production, and thanks to our reputation for quality, sustainability and consistency, we are seeing strong customer growth in the category.

“Key to our success is the dedication and ingenuity demonstrated on a daily basis by our team right across the business.

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"We are already exporting to 40 countries, and with this investment we want to build on that momentum and future proof our operation at Dunmanbridge for decades to come.”

Work on the expanded operation at the Dunmanbridge-based facility is underway and is on track to go live in February 2025.

The investment will increase the site’s cheese capacity by 20,000 tonnes per year, while also expanding its WPC (whey protein concentrate) capacity.

According to the co-op, the facility currently directly supports over 1100 families in the local area, with 345 employed at the facility and a further 760 farms, out of Dale Farm’s 1,280 milk producers, supplying milk to it.

Mr Whelan added: "The sustainability and profitability of our farmers and their businesses are at the heart of every decision we make as a cooperative.

“This investment will be transformative not just for Dale Farm, but for the Northern Ireland rural economy. We have big plans for the future and are looking forward to the next step of this journey.”