'Brexit or no Brexit, the dairy sector will expand'
Lakeland Dairies' CEO Michael Hanley isn't fazed by the prospect of the UK's exit from Europe
The dairy sector will continue to grow over the next decade and has the most positive long-term prospects of all the Irish farming enterprises, Lakeland Dairies chief executive officer Michael Hanley believes. And he doesn't envisage Brexit putting a brake on the current expansion in the sector.
And Lakeland, which has 2,400 farming members on both sides of the border, will adopt a policy of "mixing and matching" its production capacity in both the Republic and Northern Ireland to meet any commercial scenario which a British exit from the EU might present when the negotiating process is completed, he added.
"Brexit or no Brexit, the Irish dairy sector will expand. The dairy sector is the best farming enterprise in Ireland and that will remain the case whether we have a soft, hard, or dropping off a cliff outcome to the Brexit negotiations," Mr Hanley said at the official opening of the co-op's new €40m advanced milk drying plant in Bailieboro, Co Cavan.
The plant, which is one of the biggest of its kind in Europe, will produce 160,000 tonnes of milk powders and 50,000 tonnes of butter annually
Lakeland, which employs over 800 people, is constantly reviewing its business options in the light of Brexit, said Mr Hanley.
But he emphasised that while the UK was an important and valued market for the co-op, they have customers in a further 79 countries globally.
These alternative markets in Asia, the Middle East, China and Europe were both profitable and expanding and the company will continue to grow its non-UK business.