West Cork-based Carbery Group has reported a 4.8% increase in annual earnings - before accounting for interest charges, tax and depreciation of its assets - of €37m. 

Carbery is owned by four Irish co-operatives - Bandon, Barryroe, Drinagh and Lisavaird - and employs over 550 people. 

It operates from eight locations including Ireland, the UK, the US, Brazil and Thailand.

In its results statement today, the group said its turnover for the year fell to €340m from €349.5m in 2015. 

Dan MacSweeney, the group's chief executive, said that the results were achieved against a market backdrop of weak global dairy prices. 

"During the year, we prioritised the need to support milk prices for our dairy farmers and, once again, Carbery paid industry leading milk prices. This was possible due to the underlying strong performances from our Ireland based dairy and nutrition divisions and our international division, Synergy, which continued to grow its customer base in overseas markets," he said.

Mr MacSweeney noted that, while dairy markets were difficult in the early part of the year as milk flows in Northern Europe grew strongly, the reduced milk flows late in the year had a positive impact with prices increasing. 

"This trend continued into 2017, however, market pricing for the second half of this year is still a challenge due to the current weakness in dairy markets in the last month or so," he said.

Looking ahead, Mr MacSweeney said that in the medium term, Brexit presents a significant challenge to many businesses in the food industry in Ireland, and Carbery is not immune to this challenge. 

"We are currently evaluating all potential scenarios with a view to limiting the impact of the Brexit process on our shareholders and milk suppliers," he stated.