LacPatrick suppliers call for shareholders’ meeting on merger plan
But board insists it has been ‘pro-active’ and transparent with farmers
THERE are mounting calls for shareholder meetings at LacPatrick Co-op to discuss the continuing uncertainty at the Ulster dairy processor.
Suppliers of the northern dairy have expressed anger and frustration at the lack of consultation from management at the co-op.
A Lacpatrick source pointed out that the co-op had written to its shareholders regarding recent developments and that it had met with farm organisations on both sides of the Border over the last week.
However, the ICMSA has backed calls for the co-op to hold a shareholders’ meeting.
“We note that LacPatrick is communicating directly with individual farmer-members and with farm organisations, but we would think that the circumstances call for communication at shareholder level and that should be arranged,” ICMSA president Pat McCormack said.
However, in a statement to the Farming Independent, LacPatrick insisted that it had been proactive in its communications with co-op members.
“LacPatrick has communicated directly with farmers as well as with farm organisations thus far and will continue to do so throughout this process,” LacPatrick stated.
“LacPatrick proactively sought meetings with the IFA and the ICMSA in the Republic of Ireland as well as the UFU in Northern Ireland to inform them and their members of the recent developments in LacPatrick,” the co-op statement added.
The co-op also pointed out that no decision on the future of LacPatrick would be taken without the “approval of shareholders”.
In its letter to shareholders LacPatrick stated that its board had set out a strategic vision for the business which “may or may not include partnerships, joint ventures, mergers and other opportunities”.
The letter claimed that the LacPatrick board’s decision followed “approaches from international and national companies in recent months”.
The move also followed a 5.5c/l cut in milk returns for Southern suppliers for March supplies.
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.
The price for Northern Irish milk suppliers was also cut to 25p/l.
LacPatrick management has insisted that the co-op is profitable and remains “in a position of financial and strategic strength”.
“LacPatrick is a profitable co-op. All farmers have been paid for their milk this month and farmers will continue to be paid on time each and every month regardless of how long this process takes and regardless of the outcome,” the co-op stated.
LacPatrick was created in 2015 by the merger of Town of Monaghan Co-op and Ballyrashane Co-op in Antrim. It has a milk pool of around 600m litres, with 500m litres supplied from the North and 100m from the South.
The co-op has around 1,000 suppliers, 700 in the North and 300 in the South. It has three processing sites located in Monaghan town, Ballyrashane and Artigarvan, Co Tyrone.
Among the possible merger candidates touted for LacPatrick are Dale Farm in the North, as well as Aurivo, Lakeland Dairies and Glanbia.