The UK's competition watchdog has launched a probe into a merger between two Irish dairy co-ops.
The merger of LacPatrick in Monaghan, and Lakeland Dairies, based in Cavan, was backed by well over 90pc of the co-ops' farmer members in meetings last year.
Now the UK's Competition and Markets Authority has announced the start of its inquiry into the merger plans between Lakeland Dairies (NI) Ltd and Lacpatrick Cooperative Society.
It had announced a preliminary intention to investigate the deal in November.
The CMA said it will be considering whether the merger could be expected to result "in a substantial lessening of competition within any market or markets in the United Kingdom for goods or services".
It's calling for any parties with concerns over competition or public interest matters arising from the merger to contact them. The merger would create the second-largest dairy processor on the island, with a milk pool of 1.8-billion litres.
Alo Duffy, the chairman of Lakeland, said it would pay a "sustainable and competitive milk price in line with market conditions".
At meetings in October, 97.24pc of Lakeland members voted in favour, while 95.99pc of LacPatrick farmers gave the thumbs-up.
The newly-merged entity will be known as Lakeland Dairies, with a total of 3,200 suppliers creating a milk pool second in size to Glanbia, which has 2.5 billion litres.
There are around 600 Northern Ireland suppliers to Monaghan-based LacPatrick, and 750 which supply milk to Cavan-based Lakeland.
In a recent New Year message to farmers, Lakeland said it was looking to boost sales in the Middle East and Asia, saying that in recent months it had hosted 140 customers from those regions.