The country's biggest farmer-owned dairy processor, Dairygold, has reported profits of over €27m for 2014. Turnover was up slightly to just under €850 million. That was achieved despite a decline in international dairy market returns where pricing remains fairly volatile with the onset of the abolition of quotas today.

Jim Woulfe, chief executive of Dairygold, described the removal of quotas as a real opportunity and a positive day for the dairy sector. "After 31 years of contraction since the introduction of quotas, there's pent up ambition in the industry and this is a real opportunity to release that," he said. "Harvest 2020 foresees a 50% increase in production in 2020 over the 2009 base. We see a 60% increase in the catchment territory that we service in Munster by 2020," he added.

Jim Woulfe said the performance of the processor last year was encouraging given that it was against the backdrop of a falling dairy market where prices had fallen by 50% since December. The co-op is undergoing expansion to take full advantage of the removal of quotas. "Our 2011 plan is to incrementally grow the business and we've been undertaking incremental investment. Mitchelstown came on stream last year. We're mid way through an €83.5m investment in Mallow and we have another plan for 2017/18 depending on the milk flow," Jim Woulfe said.

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The number of companies going to court to have an examiner appointed is holding steady, despite a recovery taking hold across the economy. That is according to accountants Hughes Blake, who issue a quarterly examinership index.

Neil Hughes, Managing Partner at Hughes Blake, said 1,200 jobs had been saved last year through the process by which struggling businesses refinance and save themselves from closure. "A further 372 jobs were saved in the first quarter of this year. We have found that the role of the Circuit Court system is now taking over from the High Court. That was the intent of the Government in making the process more widely available," he said.

Mr Hughes said the attraction of the service for the average business owner was its accessibility in regional locations. "The last thing they want to do is head to the Four Courts. The idea of introducing the Circuit Court process was to make it more accessible in the regions which is a key issue. That's partly why the numbers seeking examinership are holding steady," he explained.

He also welcomed the suggestion from the Irish Society for Insolvency Practitioners that the Insolvency Service of Ireland - which is for individuals - could be extended to cover SMEs.  "It would clarify matters for business owners. It would further remove the negative connotations associated with the courts and could be a really welcome development," he concluded.

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MORNING BRIEFS - +++ The monthly look at the manufacturing sector, compiled by Investec Bank, points to further strong growth in March. The headline figure from the Purchasing Managers Index was not quite as impressive as February's result, which was the strongest reading since December 1999, but the result is consistent with a sharp rate of growth for nearly two years now. Firms reported expansion in new orders - a key indicator of future growth - but there are indications that many firms are struggling to keep up with demand. The weak euro is helping the sector with anecdotal evidence suggesting that the UK remains a key source of new business.

*** International drinks group Quintessential Brands is to invest €4m in its Abbeyleix production facility over the next 18 months.
The company acquired First Ireland Spirits last year which is a major producer of Irish Cream liqueurs, such as O'Mara's Irish country cream and Dubliner Whiskey. The plan is to double output at the plant to around 2 million cases - or over 24 million bottles - a year.