Ulster Farmers’ Union, deputy president, Victor Chestnutt, has welcomed Lakeland and LacPatrick being given the green light by their shareholders to merge, following months of uncertainty.
Speaking after Special General Meetings (SGMs) in Cookstown (LacPatrick) and Cavan (Lakeland), Mr Chestnutt said the merger will bring challenges and opportunities for dairying in Northern Ireland.
He added: “The new business will have a strong balance sheet to make progress and acts quickly to develop a plan to drive efficiency. Centralising and rationalising its operations must be at the core of the merger agenda. An improved milk price will stabilise the new Lakeland milk pool.”
In July the UFU criticised the 2.5 pence per litre base price gap between the highest and lowest milk buyers in Northern Ireland.
“While this has been trimmed back slightly it remains sizeable and must be tackled as part of this merger,” said Mr Chestnutt.
The merged business will be known as Lakeland Dairies and will have a milk pool of 1.8 billion litres, two-thirds of which will be collected in Northern Ireland from 1,350 suppliers (600 LacPatrick and 750 Lakeland).