Lakeland Dairies has announced a major restructuring of its business, which will see three current plants closed, with two of these premises to be sold.

A new purpose-built liquid milk processing plant will be built in Killeshandra, Co Cavan.

Liquid milk processing will cease at the plant in Monaghan town by 2025 and it will then be sold.

The milk drying plant in Lough Egish, also in Co Monaghan, will cease production in June of next year.

Finally, the Lakeland Dairies site in Banbridge, Co Down, which has acted as a butter churning and packing plant, will close next June and that site will be sold.

Milk will continue to be processed at Lakelands' other sites in Bailieboro, Killeshandra, Newtownards, Ballyrashane and Artigarvan. There will be no impact on the Lakeland Agri feed and inputs operations at the neighbouring Lough Egish feed mill.

Job losses

It’s envisaged that 78 jobs will be lost from the Lakelands workforce of over 1,300 people. An engagement and consultation process with staff and their unions has commenced.

The remaining 1,300 Lakeland Dairies staff will not be directly impacted by the announcement.

Lakeland Dairies’ chief executive officer Colin Kelly said: “Lakeland Dairies is a co-operative with a heritage spanning nearly 130 years.

"We have a strong balance sheet, strategically located sites in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, a high-quality milk pool of some 2bn litres produced by 3,200 committed farm families, a customer base in over 100 global markets and we are well placed to meet future demands.

"However, we are approaching a decade that will be different from the one that the industry has just experienced.

“The industry has come through a period of significant volume growth following the removal of milk quotas in 2015.

"Lakeland Dairies invested over €350m to support the ambition of our farm families to produce this additional milk and meet the latent demand at farm level for expansion," he said.

Value added

The next decade will be less about large volume growth and more about value-added growth and adding capability throughout the business, Kelly said.

"This will be done to drive the best possible returns for our farmers and to continue to offer our loyal customers the highest-quality products while supporting our people and our communities.

"We will work closely with our colleagues and their families and support them throughout this process in which they will continue to be treated fairly and with respect.

"While this is a difficult decision, it is a crucial one to ensure that Lakeland Dairies is future-proofed and well positioned to meet the challenges as well as the opportunities of the future," he said.