Northern Ireland dairy co-op Dale Farm has said the coronavirus pandemic has hit farmers here as it reported a fall in sales and profits.
Chief executive Nick Whelan spoke as the business - famous for its ice-cream, Spelga yoghurt and Dromona cheese - reported a slight fall in sales to £504.5m.
Mr Whelan said the results for the year ending March 2020 were “solid”.
The co-op collects milk from 1,300 dairy farmers in Northern Ireland.
But during lockdown demand for milk and other dairy and farm products was hit by the closure of restaurants and cafes, putting pressure on producers.
Mr Whelan said bad weather had also hit sales in some product areas earlier in the year. But he added: “Our solid performance, despite these headwinds, is the combined result of continued investment, excellent customer partnerships and a team of hard-working, dedicated people in every part of our business.”
Group operating profit was £12.2m, down 15% from £14.3m a year earlier.
Group profit before tax was £9.8m, down 18% from £12m. And overall group turnover was £504.5m, down 1% from £509m.
Mr Whelan said: “Our portfolio of dairy products in retail and foodservice across the UK as well as our global exports, performed well.
“Milk volumes and milk quality in the year were relatively strong, provided to the cooperative through a network of over 1,300 local dairy farmers. Our award-winning cheddar cheese continues to perform particularly well within the own brand, foodservice and branded sectors in both the domestic market and worldwide.”
But he said the pandemic was having “a significant effect on our business and our dairy farmer members currently”.
“I am, however, confident in the talent and resilience of our people, the strength of our business model and the quality of the products we make.
“We always endeavour to pay a competitive milk price to farmers and ensuring we deliver on this will be our core focus. We will continue to reinvest and innovate so we can meet the needs of the consumer and ultimately best support our dairy farmer members,” he said.