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Friday 14 December 2018

Cross-border row erupts after co-op cuts milk prices paid to farmers North and South

LacPatrick was formed from the merger of Town of Monaghan Dairy in the Republic and Ballyrashane Dairy in the North. It processes more than 600 million litres of milk from more than 1,000 farmers, roughly half on each side of the Border
LacPatrick was formed from the merger of Town of Monaghan Dairy in the Republic and Ballyrashane Dairy in the North. It processes more than 600 million litres of milk from more than 1,000 farmers, roughly half on each side of the Border

Patsy McArdle

A major cross-border row has erupted involving a dairy co-op and farming organisations in the Republic and the North over cuts to the price of milk.

The price of milk at the farm has been cut by one cent per litre in the Republic, and by one penny across the border.

LacPatrick Dairies, which was formed in 2014 with the merger of Ballyrashane and Town of Monaghan co-ops, said it was engaging a cost-saving exercise to ensure the survival of the co-op.

It recently announced plans to amalgamate with the Lakeland Dairies group.

It also revealed it will not be paying bonuses to its 400 employees this Christmas. And it has eliminated the practice of “sick-time” pay.

“This is a cost-saving exercise to ensure the survival of the co-op, said a LacPatrick spokesman.

“These measures have to be taken because of a serious downturn in the dairy market.”

However, a spokesman for the Irish Farmers’ Association in Monaghan said: “There is huge concern and anger over the decision to cut the milk price to suppliers, and we will be discussing with the Ulster Farmers’ Union in the North what possible action that may be taken.”

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A spokesman for the employees said: “We are shocked by the decision to cut sick pay allowances...we feel this is not acceptable.”

The co-op has creameries in Monaghan town, Artigarvan in Co Tyrone and Coleraine in Co Derry.

In a statement, LacPatrick said its board had met last week and set a price for October milk.

“Suppliers in the Republic of Ireland will receive at price of 31c/l (including VAT) for milk supplied in October. Suppliers in Northern Ireland will receive a price of 26.5p/l for milk supplied in October,” it said.

Commenting on the milk price, chairman Andrew McConkey said: “The board and management of LacPatrick are committed to running the LacPatrick business in a profitable and sustainable manner. The co-op must return the maximum milk price to our farmer suppliers and this can only be done by being as efficient as possible.

“We are now very much in the midst of a severe downturn in the dairy markets which is on a par with 2016. The business we operate must reflect the realities of the market.

“We will continue to closely monitor the market in order to return the maximum possible price back to our farmers.”

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