Revenues rise by 2% at Lakeland Dairies
Dairy giant Lakeland Dairies, which uses milk from around 750 farmers in Northern Ireland, has reported a 2% rise in sales to £514.6m for 2016.
The Cavan-based company, which bought the dairy business from Northern Ireland co-operative Fane Valley last year, said its 2016 performance had been "robust".
And it said that the purchase of Fane Valley's dairy division had boosted its milk supply by 22% to 1.1bn litres.
With prices paid to Northern Ireland farmers for their milk falling to as low as 18p per litre in 2015 - after highs of nearly 34p a year earlier - Lakeland said it is now paying farmers 25p per litre.
Lakeland also has a global logistics centre making dairy-based products in Newtownards, Co Down.
Chief executive Michael Hanley said: "After going through a sustained period where international dairy markets have been very volatile, the market has become somewhat stronger, however, its continuing strength cannot be predicted.
"Our aim is to be the most efficient and competitive dairy processor in line with the highest world-class standards of operation, and we are well advanced along that pathway."
A spokesman said the company's current milk price for farmers was 25 pence per litre (ppl), plus a volume bonus of approximately 0.5 pence per litre.
Agribusiness sales were down 14% to £45.6m as difficulties facing dairy farmers hit home and the firm lowered feed and fertiliser prices to support customers.
Lakeland said sales in its food service division were £166.1m in 2016 - a fall of 3.8% on the previous year, which it said was "primarily due to pricing sensitivity in a competitive market".
The company said: "The co-operative's major new global logistics centre in Newtownards played an important role meeting customer demand in key market segments including hospitality, catering and convenience, using highly automated systems with maximum effectiveness and efficiency."