Business

Jobs axed as owners shut century-old creamery in Banbridge

Lakeland Dairies is shutting its operation in Banbridge next June and selling off the Rathfriland Road site
Lakeland Dairies is shutting its operation in Banbridge next June and selling off the Rathfriland Road site Lakeland Dairies is shutting its operation in Banbridge next June and selling off the Rathfriland Road site

THE creamery in Banbridge, which has been a major employer in the town for nearly a century, will be permanently closed from next June as part of "operational changes" by its owner Lakeland Dairies.

It follows a months-long assessment by the cross-border dairy processing co-operative on how best to create further processing efficiencies in the long-term interests and sustainability of its 3,200 farm families, who produce 2 billion litres of milk a year.

And the Lakeland board has just approved a plan which will impact on a number of its sites in Ireland and lead to nearly 80 job losses.

Its Banbridge operation, which has acted as a butter churning and packing and powder storage site (no milk has been directly processed there for many years), will close in June.

A process to sell the Rathfriland Road site - which Lakeland acquired from Fane Valley in 2016 - will commence shortly.

Liquid milk production will transfer from Monaghan, which will shut, to Killeshandra while all other bulk milk handling activities will transfer to other Lakeland sites.

It is envisaged that, following the ending of production in early 2025, a process to sell the Monaghan site will also take place.

Lakeland said: “Regrettably redundancies will be necessary to realise this strategy as operations will be ceased on the three sites.

“Exact details and numbers will be confirmed in due course, but it is anticipated that 78 jobs will be impacted by the announcement. There will also be redeployment opportunities for some staff into vacant positions in the business.”

Lakeland Dairies has commenced an engagement and consultation process with staff and their unions directly. It adds that the remaining 1,300 Lakeland staff will not be directly impacted by its latest announcement.

Group chief executive Colin Kelly said: “As a co-operative with a heritage spanning nearly 130 years, we continually assess how we can take long-term strategic decisions that will benefit the society for this and subsequent generations.

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

“The next decade will be less about large volume growth and more about value-added growth and adding capability throughout the business. 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 do appreciate that this announcement creates uncertainty for our colleagues and their families. We will work closely with them 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.”