Belfast Telegraph

Dairy group's profits increase despite tough year

By David Elliott

Arlene Foster at Dale Farm's Pennybridge plant with David Dobbin, group chief executive

A difficult year for the dairy industry hasn't stopped growth at Dale Farm's parent company which has reported an increase in profit of 5% over the last year.

United Dairy Farmers said operating profit across the group reached £5.25m in the 12 months to the end of March despite a 4% decrease in turnover to £418m over the year.

The company attributed the fall in sales to "lower market returns in the first half of the year" when weak international dairy markets, adverse weather and high feed costs dented performance.

Still, the latter factor helped produce record sales at the group's animal feed company United Feeds of £48.4m, a 27% increase on the year, a feat food processing arm Dale Farm also managed with turnover of £228m, up 7.5%. That performance was put down to heavy investment in Dale Farm's Northern Ireland plants, according to United Dairies' chief executive David Dobbin, a factor which bodes well for the future of the company when combined with a more promising start for the global dairy market in 2013.

"Having now completed our major £39m investment programme, Dale Farm has been well positioned to take advantage of these more favourable markets and has already seen very strong growth in the first half of 2013," he said.

That, along with an increase in exports, has led to a 15% boost to the amount of milk being processed by NI farmers.

"This growth has been mainly generated in cheese and butter sales into the British Isles and Russian markets and specialist whey protein and fat-filled milk powder ingredients into China, the Middle East and North Africa," Mr Dobbin said.

The parent group of Dale Farm revealed a solid set of results in a difficult year for the industry which was hit by weak international markets and high feed costs in the second half.

Belfast Telegraph