The continental cheese facility is being built at Belview in south Kilkenny under a joint venture between Glanbia Co-op and Dutch dairy company Royal A-Ware, and will create 400 jobs during construction and 80 jobs when complete.

It is expected that the plant will start producing cheese for the European market in 2024.

Glanbia says the new plant will be “one of the most efficient and sustainable” cheese-production units in Europe.

It will produce over 50,000 tonnes of cheese every year, including Edam, Gouda and Emmental, using about 450 million litres of milk from Glanbia suppliers every year.

“Glanbia Co-op currently sends some milk for processing by third parties during the peak milk supply months; the new facility will allow this milk to be brought in-house for processing in one of the most sustainable cheese plants in Europe. This will consolidate milk processing and reduce transport movements,” the company said .

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar and Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue attended the sod-turning ceremony at the site.

“It’s a huge boost for the south-east which has experienced significant and long overdue investment and jobs growth in the past year or two,” Mr Varadkar said.

“The UK’s decision to leave the European Union was a seismic event for Ireland’s agri-food sector and the over 163,000 people it employs here.”

Glanbia Co-op CEO Jim Bergin said the factory will help the company diversify their product offering, post-Brexit.

“This facility is essential in the context of a sustainable future for our Co-op and our sector as set out in our Living Proof sustainability strategy.”

Royal A-ware CEO Jan Anker said production of the cheese in Belview will allow them to bring “high-quality cheese, produced through a local supply chain, into the marketplace”.