Time is ticking with regard to the ratification of the proposed joint venture deals announced by Fane Valley and Lakeland Co-op some months ago.
We were told, initially, that due diligence in relation to the new measures would have been secured in the early new year. This target date was subsequently put back to the end of March. But May Day is now almost upon us and still no white smoke has been seen emanating from either Armagh or Killeshandra.
At this stage in the process, there is no benefit to be gained from turning a blind eye to the elephant in the room. Rumours are circulating like wildfire around the country as to what is the actual status of the talks between the two co-ops. This is serving no good purpose at all and, particularly so, for those farmers who supply Fane Valley.
I am fully aware of the sensitivities involved here. But I think it would be correct and proper for both co-ops to give some indication as to the progress of their negotiations over the coming days. Nature abhors a vacuum. And, in the case of the ongoing deliberations involving Fane Valley and Lakeland, the deafening silence that has accompanied the process to date has only given those who want to snipe at both organisations an opportunity so to do.
Let’s be clear about this: our farming and food sectors need a strong Fane Valley, working in tandem with an equally vibrant Lakeland Dairies.
There was a general welcome for the proposed joint venture initiative when it was announced. And, no doubt, this feeling still exists abroad in the countryside and further afield.
As everyone knows, these are turbulent times for agriculture in Northern Ireland. Normally, businesses must be afforded the space to carry out their affairs without interference. And this principle should hold, where both Fane Valley and Lakeland are concerned.
But given the intense farmer speculation that now exists regarding the state of the ongoing talks, an update from both organisations as to what is actually going on would be extremely helpful.