The shareholders of two Irish dairy processing co-operatives have approved a merger.
Lakeland Dairies and LacPatrick Dairies both held Special General Meetings on Tuesday afternoon.
At their meetings – in Cavan and Co Tyrone, respectively – shareholders voted resoundingly in favour of the merger.
The ballots of each society were conducted independently by the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society.
Some 97.24% of shareholders of Lakeland Dairies voted in favour, while 95.99% of shareholders of LacPatrick gave the merger the green light.
Alo Duffy, chairman of Lakeland Dairies, said: “The shareholders of both societies have created a great good for co-operative dairy farming.
“By combining our co-operatives and operations, we will continue our strong progress in a very meaningful way.
“The new society being formed through this merger will continue to be farmer owned and controlled while paying a sustainable and competitive milk price in line with market conditions into the future.”
While Andrew McConkey, chairman of LacPatrick, added: “By voting in favour of the merger, we are confident that both the LacPatrick and Lakeland shareholders have created a sustainable platform for dairy production in the northern half of the country.
“This will create stability, scale, efficiency and further added value for our milk producers together with enhanced global market access for our high quality dairy products.”
A source said there are no plans for restructuring or job losses, as the merger has just been agreed.
Subject to regulatory approvals, it is thought the merger will be completed early in 2019.
The new society will adopt the name of Lakeland Dairies.
With 3,200 suppliers, the merged co-operatives will process over 1.8 billion litres of milk annually and have annual revenues of over €1bn.
LacPatrick was established in 2015 following the merger of Ballyrashane Co-op and Town of Monaghan Co-op.
LacPatrick has 848 milk suppliers and currently processes approximately 600 million litres of milk annually.
The co-operative’s consumer food products include liquid milk, butter, yogurt and desserts sold under the brands Champion, Ballyrashane and private labels.
Lakeland was set up in 1990 through the merger of Killeshandra Co-operative and Lough Egish Co-operative.
It is a farmer-owned dairy processing co-operative with operations across 15 counties on a cross-border basis.
Lakeland collects and processes over 1.2 billion litres of locally produced milk from 2,500 milk suppliers each year.
It is an international supplier of dairy ingredients and foodservice products – marketing and distributing 240 different dairy products in over 80 countries worldwide.
It produces some 200,000 tonnes of butters and powders annually.