Spring is here and St Patrick’s Day is coming up. Every year there are rumblings about how many Ministers are travelling around the world for St Patricks Day and how it is all just a big Jolly. I can’t comment on the usefulness or otherwise of the Ministers’ trips but I am pretty proud of the Irish foods which are enjoyed at our embassies around the world for Patrick’s Day celebrations. Bord Bia and the Dept of Foreign Affairs came together a few years ago and decided to make sure that there was really good quality Irish food available in all of the Irish embassies that were hosting an event for our National day; what an opportunity to showcase the fantastic produce that comes from our farms and food producers. Sheridans were selected to work with Bord Bia in putting together easy to use selections that could be sent around the world; these packs include the best of Irish beef, cured pork, butter, smoked fish, chocolates among other great Irish foods. Of course there is a selection of farmhouse cheeses in there. So for this month’s Cheese of the month I thought it would be nice for you all to be eating the same cheeses this weekend as our embassies and their guests are enjoying from New York to Singapore. The four cheeses that we have selected this year are amongst the best of our cheeses and of consistently high quality; Cashel Blue Mature, Knockanore Smoked Cheddar, Durrus and Coolea extra Mature.
I am happy that these four cheeses can be presented in France or Italy and that we can be proud of what our Family Farms produce. There is lots of talk of the billions worth of Irish commodity foods being exported every year and there is no doubt that these exports are very positive for our farms and the economy as a whole. The exports of Irish Farmhouse cheese are tiny in comparison and if we look at the cold numbers we may think irrelevant. But exporting these great cheeses is not just about the tonnage; for one thing the number of jobs per tonne produced of farmhouse cheese is many multiples of those employed producing the equivalent of milk powder or commodity cheese. But there are even greater benefits; they themselves act as food ambassadors for our country. They represent our great heritage of small family farms; they show off the quality of our milk and the innovation of our crafts-people. When these cheeses are tasted at an event in Sidney or enjoyed by a family in Milan they tell promote all of our foods and our country as a whole. So whatever about the Ministers’ presence around the world this weekend I know our cheeses will be doing a great job to promote Ireland.
I hope you too enjoy these cheeses and are proud of our great food and farming heritage.
Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit.