Shareholders of dairy processing co-ops Lakeland and LacPatrick have voted for a merger of the two societies.
The merger, subject to regulatory approval, will form the second-largest dairy processor in Ireland, under the name Lakeland Dairies.
It is hoped the move will be completed next year 2019, creating a co-op with 3,200 suppliers, processing over 1.8 billion litres of milk a year, with annual revenues of over €1bn, and benefiting from new efficiencies across the organisation.
In the independent ballots, both conducted by the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS), the move was approved by 97.24% of shareholders of Lakeland Dairies, and by 95.99% of shareholders of LacPatrick Dairies.
The original Lakeland Dairies, which operates within a 15 county catchment area across the northern half of the island of Ireland, processes about one billion litres of quality milk annually into a range of value added dairy foodservice products and functional dairy food ingredients.
Chair Alo Duffy said: “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.”
LacPatrick also operates cross-border, with its 1,000 farmer suppliers based in all counties of Ulster. It says it will operate as an independent co-operative still owned by local farmers and which contributes financially, socially and environmentally to the local rural community.
Chair Andrew McConkey said: “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.”
Michael Hanley, group CEO designate of the new society said: “Underpinned by the confidence shown by the members of each co-operative, the combined organisation will be a competitive, international dairy food business which will work as a platform to secure the future of our dairy farmer members for generations to come.
“It will deliver economies of scale and commercial synergies, processing increased volumes of milk and providing greater capability to address global customer needs for high quality dairy foodservice, food ingredients and consumer products.”