Lakeland Dairies’ chief executive Michael Hanley has called for clarification on how cross-border trading arrangements will be sorted out for the sector once Brexit becomes a reality.
His call reflects the fact that extremely significant volumes of milk produced in Northern Ireland go for processing across the border on a daily basis – and then comes back again in processed form.
It also takes account of the reality that a high proportion of the dairy processing operations on the island of Ireland are now run as cross border ventures.
“Give us the rules of engagement,” said Mr Hanley.
“We are simply looking for clarification on how milk processing businesses with a significant cross border dimension to their operations can operate post-Brexit.”
Mr Hanley’s call comes days after information leaflets from the UK government on how local businesses should react to a no-deal Brexit advised affected businesses to get in touch with the Dublin authorities.
Meanwhile, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has re-affirmed that the UK government remains committed a back stop arrangement, where cross border trade is concerned, of the type envisaged by the Prime Minister Theresa May a few months ago.
In other words, there will be no hard border on the island of Ireland.
Mr Hanley made his comments while participating at the official opening of a new £5m automated packing facility at Lakeland Dairies in Newtownards. Her Royal Highness, the Princess Royal officiated. The venture has been supported by Invest NI.
The state-of-the-art new facility further enhances the capabilities of this major dairy processing site which plays a key role in the Foodservice Division of Lakeland Dairies. The opening of the £5m new Packing Hall is part of an overall £27m investment by Lakeland Dairies in Newtownards over the past 10 years. It follows the opening in 2015 of a major new Global Logistics Centre in Newtownards which is among the most technically advanced global export facilities in Europe.
The co-operative has a particularly strong track record of international sales growth as a result of investment and innovation with exports from Northern Ireland worth some £170m annually. Further growth is predicted over the next five years with a particular focus on Asian Pacific, Middle Eastern, African and American markets.
Lakeland Dairies brings together over 750 family farms producing 600 million litres of high-quality, sustainable, pasture-based milk in Northern Ireland. The co-operative employs 225 people at Newtownards and the operation supports some 700 further jobs among suppliers and contractors locally.
Alo Duffy, Chairman of Lakeland Dairies said: “The driving aim of Lakeland Dairies is to create a vibrant and sustainable future for co-operative dairy farmers and to support them with the highest possible milk prices in line with market conditions. We are also intent on promoting the wellbeing of rural communities and the environment in which we operate.
“The opening of these excellent new facilities by The Princess Royal provides great encouragement for our co-operative ideals of Better Farming, Better Business and Better Living for all of our milk producers and the provision of exceptional service and delivery for our customers throughout the world.”
Mr Hanley added: “Lakeland Dairies is an internationally recognised supplier of superb dairy ingredients and foodservice products underpinned by outstanding, high quality raw materials in the milk that our dairy farmers send to us for processing. We serve the dairy product needs of leading customers in key food industry sectors worldwide.
“Together with modern, large scale processing facilities and a highly skilled workforce, we are addressing many opportunities for growth and development in line with continuously strong global demand for dairy products. Our Newtownards base will continue to play a key role in the ongoing export success of Northern Ireland long into the future.”
Lakeland Dairies is a farmer owned dairy processing co-operative with a heritage of excellence in dairy farming spanning over 120 years. The co-operative markets 240 high quality dairy foodservice and food ingredient products to 80 countries worldwide, exporting close to 100% of its entire production capacity to every corner of the globe. Lakeland collects over 1.7m litres of milk directly from Northern Ireland dairy farmers each day and over 1.2 billion litres of milk north and south each year
Using state-of-the-art technology, the Newtownards site has 12 different production lines making over 100,000 tonnes of dairy products and 700 million individual product units each year. These include ice cream mixes, UHT milk, milk portions, flavoured milks, added value dairy creams, powdered desserts, cappuccino toppings and ice cream powder.
Lakeland Dairies’ Global Logistics Centre at Newtownards is a fully automated facility with highly advanced technology including robotic systems, automatic cranes, over 14,000 individual pallet spaces and a simultaneous loading capacity for up to 11 forty-foot container vehicles at any one time. The Newtownards site has twice been awarded The Queen’s Award for Export and has twice won the Northern Ireland Exporter of the Year Award presented by Food from Britain.