LacPatrick under the spotlight on April milk prices
Consultants due to report this week on border co-op's financial position
LacPatrick will be back in the spotlight this week as dairies announce their April milk prices.
Although the Ulster co-op is among the last processor to set its milk quotes each month, the price levels set by local competitors Lakeland Dairies and Glanbia will be closely watched by LacPatrick's management and suppliers.
Confirmation of a 5.5c/l cut in March milk returns for LacPatrick's Southern suppliers - and a drop to 25p/l for its Northern farmers - sparked the current troubles at the dairy.
In the face of a furious reaction from its dairy farmers, LacPatrick's board announced a "strategic vision" for the business which included a suite of options - "partnerships, joint ventures, mergers and other opportunities".
The co-op insisted this week that it had only lost between eight and 14 milk suppliers as a result of the milk price cuts, but returns for its farmers are trailing its competitors by around 2c/l.
LacPatrick's VAT-inclusive milk price fell from 35.75c/l in February (which included an early calving bonus of 3c/l for January and February) to 30.25c/l for March.
Close to 500m litres of LacPatrick's milk pool is supplied by around 700 farmers in the North, with the remaining 100m litres coming from around 300 Southern farmers.
Holding suppliers on both sides of the Border could be a difficult balancing act for LacPatrick's management, industry sources maintained.