Tirlán’s turnover fell by 17% to €2.53 billion last year compared to €3.06 billion in 2022, according to its latest annual report and accounts published today (Tuesday, April 30).

The Kilkenny-headquartered co-op also reported a 5% year-on-year drop in operating profits for 2023 to €68.3 million.

But Tirlán’s outgoing chief executive officer (CEO), Jim Bergin, told Agriland that the co-op’s overall performance in a 12 month period – overshadowed by inflation, inclement weather, high interest costs and a downturn in markets – was “resilient”.

“Very importantly we generated EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) of €117.7 million and we supported our farmers very strongly during the year so we paid a very high milk price through the first half of the year, particularly during the months of March and July which were the wettest months on record.

“Later in the year we introduced a feed discount scheme for our farmers for November and December and we increased the premiums on our autumn calving schemes and our liquid milk schemes.

“We also paid the highest price for grain last year and paid about a 10% support or premium through our trading bonus co-op support to our grain farmers who had an incredibly tough year last year and that has continued through to 2024 unfortunately,” Bergin said.

He also stressed that the co-op is in a “financially strong” and has a portfolio of “well-invested assets” including its 28.62% shareholding in Glanbia which was valued at €1.3 billion on April 5, 2024.

At Tirlán’s HQ in Kilkenny (L-R) Michael Horan, chief financial officer, Jim Bergin, CEO; John Murphy, chair; Seán Molloy, CEO designate and Lisa Koep, chief ESG officer Source: Tirlán

The latest annual results show Tirlán significantly reduced down its net debt from from €234 million in 2022 to €155 million last year – which represents the lowest level of debt in a decade.

But the downturn in commodity markets last year had a direct impact on milk and grain prices for its 5,000 farm families in 2023 compared to what they received in 2022.

Tirlán paid an average milk price of 44c/L – down from 63c/L and€205/t of green feed barley compared to €310.

The latest annual report details that Tirlán’s milk pool fell last year by 3% to 3.1 billion litres.

Tirlán’s farmers

According to Bergin the co-op also paid a bonus of €5.8 million to members who traded with Tirlán’s 52 agri-business stores and online in 2023 and a dividend of 19.058 cent per share to members for 2023 totaling €6.5 million.

The outgoing CEO believes the business is “well-positioned, and the fundamentals remain strong” despite a drop in turnover in its agribusiness category where turnover was down 16% to €543 million in 2023.

Bergin will retire from his position as CEO on July 31, 2024 after a 40 year career.

He said the key ambition for the co-op is to always “pay the best possible milk and grain price”.

But the outgoing Tirlán CEO said this was against a difficult backdrop in 2023 where the standout issue for farmers was “water quality and the nitrates derogation”.

Tirlán “prioritised water quality in 2023,” he added.

The co-op’s water quality Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advisory Programme
(ASSAP) has now “delivered over 600 water quality improvement plans” for farmers in high priority catchment areas.

Bergin also told Agriland that while he believes Tirlán’s farm families demonstrated “incredible resilience” during 2023 Irish farmers in general do not always get the recognition they deserve for the work they are doing both in relation to climate and the key role they play in rural Ireland.