Dale Farm to report strong figures as Balmoral Show begins
Northern Ireland's biggest dairy cooperative has said it will be reporting another strong year for members as the Balmoral Show begins.
Dale Farm spoke on the opening day of the agricultural event outside Lisburn - confirming that it's still in talks over a tie-in with cross-border co-op LacPatrick.
Chief executive Nick Whelan said: "We look forward to one of the key events in the agricultural calendar, Balmoral Show, against the backdrop of a strong financial year, which we will report in the coming weeks.
"Over the past 12 months, we have focused on an ambitious growth strategy to grow our presence across the UK and ultimately deliver the best possible milk price to our farmers at all times."
"In doing so, we have significantly strengthened our partnerships with major retail customers, bringing our products into the hands of more consumers than ever before.
"On a production level, we have invested into facilities and technology at our factories in Northern Ireland and Great Britain, resulting in increased operating efficiencies.
"Most importantly, this is good news for the backbone of Dale Farm - our farmer members, who continue to drive the cooperative's success by supplying us with the highest quality milk."
And he said Dale Farm will have a major presence at the show.
Last month Dale Farm confirmed it was in the running for a partnership with LacPatrick, which has around 700 farmer suppliers of milk in the border counties of Northern Ireland.
But a spokeswoman for Dale Farm said that there was no further update after its chief executive "commented that Dale Farm has formally entered into a process, with a view to a potential strategic collaboration".
Dale Farm is owned by more than 1,300 dairy farmers across the UK. It has 10 sites across the UK and brands including Dale Farm Milk, Dale Farm Ice Cream, Dromona, Spelga, Fivemiletown, Mullins Ice Cream, Rowan Glen and Loseley.
A LacPatrick spokesman said there was no further update on the process of entering a partnership with another dairy business.
"As a commercially sensitive process has commenced, it would be inappropriate to comment on any third party."
It's understood that as well as Dale Farm, LacPatrick is also in talks with Irish dairy giant Glanbia, as well as cross-border, Cavan-based co-op Lakeland, and Aurivo in the west of Ireland.
Last month LacPatrick announced that its board had "agreed on pursing a number of strategic options with a view to identifying the best way forward that is in the interest of its suppliers, shareholders, staff and customers. This may or may not include partnerships, joint ventures, mergers and other opportunities to consolidate the dairy industry."
LacPatrick also confirmed that it will have a presence at the show. A spokesman said it would be present to address the concerns of suppliers. "We are looking forward to engaging with suppliers at the show.
"It's the main calendar event for the vast majority of farmers and a great opportunity to meet them and listen to their concerns and put forward as to why we're in that process of a strategic partnership."
This year's Balmoral Show is tipped to attract around 115,000 visitors over four days. And it will be the first year for the show to take place with new chief executive Alan Crowe at the helm of the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society.