1,300 Northern Ireland farmers to vote on Lakeland Dairies and LacPatrick merger
More than 1,300 dairy farmers will vote on a merger later this month after the boards of their co-ops gave the go-ahead for a tie-up.
A union of all-Ireland co-operatives Lakeland Dairies in Cavan and LacPatrick in Monaghan is expected to form an entity with the second-biggest milk pool on the island at 1.8 billion litres.
Last night the boards of the co-ops, which collect milk from dairy farms in border areas of Northern Ireland and the Republic, indicated they were in favour of the deal.
Lakeland said it would underpin "a sustainable and competitive milk price" for thousands of dairy families.
Farmers will have the chance to vote on the potential deal at special meetings on October 23. Lakeland has 750 supplier farms in Northern Ireland, while LacPatrick has 600.
The proposed merger is the latest shake-up in LacPatrick. Three years ago Town of Monaghan Co-op took over Ballyrashane Creamery in Co Antrim, leading to a rebrand as LacPatrick. Last year LacPatrick unveiled a £30m "Brexit-proofing" technology centre for the production of milk powders in Strabane, Co Tyrone.
Under the new deal the merged entity will be known as Lakeland Dairies.
It will be second only to dairy giant Glanbia in the size of its milk pool of 2.5 billion litres.
A spokesman for Lakeland said the two co-ops "are neighbouring societies and both operate on a cross-border basis, exporting the vast majority of their output to global markets".
"The amalgamation of Lakeland and LacPatrick is a coming together of two dairy co-operatives on the island of Ireland to form a strong force in the global dairy industry. Both co-operatives are highly successful agrifood industry players with excellent manufacturing facilities and complementary strengths and advantages in their various worldwide markets," he said.
LacPatrick chairman Andrew McConkey said its board was "unanimous" in recommending the deal and believed it is "the best thing for our milk suppliers, shareholders and customers".
"It gives our farmers the necessary security to make long-term business decisions and provides stability for continuing progress in dairy farming for the next generation."
Lakeland chief executive Michael Hanley said the deal would allow for an expanded range of products including foodservice and consumer foods.
"The business will have considerable potential to increase revenues and generate the cost savings necessary to ensure competitive milk prices for our dairy farmers in the future. It will continue to ensure market access to the UK, Europe and the world," Mr Hanley said.
LacPatrick farmers will vote at a meeting in Cookstown on October 23, while Lakeland farmers will meet in Cavan to vote.