LacPatrick told ‘only a good deal will settle farmers’

Members of the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) have met with representatives from LacPatrick following developments surrounding the future of the co-op.

News broke that the board of LacPatrick Dairies was considering a merger to consolidate the dairy industry less than two weeks ago. The move is understood to be driven by Brexit concerns.

LacPatrick collects around 500 million litres of Northern Ireland milk every year, with processing plants in Artigarvan and Coleraine.

It’s thought the co-op has more than 600 suppliers based in Northern Ireland.

‘Growing rumour and hearsay’

UFU dairy chairman, William Irvine, said: “Our milk producers are feeling unsettled with the growing flow of rumour and hearsay, and I am seeking reassurances for producers going forward.

“I have asked LacPatrick to ensure that the negotiations about the future of the co-op do not drag on, thereby creating any further uncertainty.”

It’s understood that LacPatrick has already been approached by a number of potential suitors and that negotiations are now entering the formal stages.

Dale Farm and Aurivo have been among those to publicly state their interest, while it’s understood that Lakeland Dairies and Glanbia could also be within LacPatrick’s sights.

“The attractiveness of the co-op is clear to see,” Irvine added. “From a Brexit viewpoint, the substantial recent investment in processing capacity means that this southern-based co-op has a presence on either side of the border, and this could be a major plus point for would-be suitors.

“LacPatrick has asked for time to reach a decision. However, the UFU has made it clear that only by the negotiations reaching a satisfactory outcome – namely by reaching a good deal with a potential suitor – will this settle the mood of our farmers.”