The green light has been given for dairy companies Lakeland and LacPatrick to merge.
At their meetings – in Cavan, Ireland and Co Tyrone, Northern Ireland respectively – shareholders voted resoundingly in favour of the merger.
It follows months of uncertainty surrounding the merger. In April, LacPatrick’s board said it had received “a number of approaches” from other businesses in the sector.
Formed in 2015, LacPatrick supports 700 local farmers and possesses processing facilities on both sides of the Irish border.
Lakeland Dairies came about through a merger in 1990. It employs more than 800 people across its divisions.
Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU), deputy president, Victor Chestnutt said the merger will bring “challenges and opportunities” for dairying in Northern Ireland.
He said: “The new business will have a strong balance sheet to make progress and acts quickly to develop a plan to drive efficiency.
In July, the UFU criticised the 2.5 pence per litre base price gap between the highest and lowest milk buyers in Northern Ireland.
“While this has been trimmed back slightly it remains sizeable and must be tackled as part of this merger,” said Mr Chestnutt.
The merged business will be known as Lakeland Dairies and will have a milk pool of 1.8 billion litres, two-thirds of which will be collected in Northern Ireland from 1,350 suppliers (600 LacPatrick and 750 Lakeland).