Siobhán Talbot, Glanbia, Spoke At Dublin Chamber AGM

10th February 2016

Posted In: FYI
Siobhan Talbot

Siobhán Talbot, the Group Managing Director of Glanbia, addressed the sold-out Dublin Chamber of Commerce’s AGM on February 4th, which was held in Dublin Castle.

During her speech, she reflected on “how far we have travelled over the last century, how much has been achieved and how we can build upon our successes to ensure that, as a country and as business people, we are ready for the challenges that a small, open, trading nation is inevitably going to face in a rapidly changing and uncertain world.”

“Of course it almost goes without saying that many aspects of life today were unimaginable 100 or even 50 years ago.  The advances in communications, transport, education and science have made our lives and the way we do business very different from the generations that went before us.  In common with many of us, I can see this change very clearly in the opportunities that are available to my 19 year old daughter versus my almost 80 year old mother.”

Siobhán highlighted the progression made in our eduction system: “When President Kennedy visited Ireland in 1963 there were 89,000 students enrolled in second level education in Ireland. Today there are 370,000 students in our secondary schools. In 1963 we had less than 10,000 students at 3rd level colleges in Ireland. Today there are 173,000 students in our 3rd level institutions.”

She cites her own industry as one that has benefitted from a more educated and innovative workforce. “I’m sure this room has heard many Irish success stories over the years, but in the Irish nutrition and food sector the story is particularly strong.  It is a story with many lessons for how to plan for success and how genuine entrepreneurship seeks out and recognises new opportunities.

In the agri-food sector, there was a time when we were happy to be out of the spotlight and doing what we do, there was a time frankly when our sector wasn’t sexy and wasn’t earning many plaudits.”

Now the value of Irish food and drink exports is €10.8 billion – which is an increase of 51% since 2009. Incredibly Irish farmers produce enough food for 40 million people and export all over the world.

She does however, rein in the optimism and acknowledges that not all of Ireland is prospering: “We have come through a tough decade of a boom and bust economic cycle.  We remain in a period of significant volatility with geo-political uncertainly and the rise and fall of global markets – especially in Asia – making it difficult to make business decisions.  But it does seem that the recovery here in Ireland is finding its feet.

Over the coming weeks voters here in Ireland will join almost 1 billion people across the globe who will participate in national elections during 2016.  And not to forget that our nearest neighbour and largest trading partner will soon decide on its membership of the EU. There is likely to be a lot of discussion about what our priorities for the future should be.”

Siobhán Talbot was named MD of Glanbia in November 2013 and she has worked for the company for over 20 years.