Group revenue at Lakeland Dairies surpassed €1 billion for the first time in the co-operative's history, according to its final year results published this afternoon.

Group revenues increased by €224.6m (27.7%) to €1.03 billion. This resulted in an operating profit of €20.5m, up by €2.97m (16.9%) and EBITDA of €42.9m which increased by €9.3m.

Lakeland Dairies concluded the year with a significantly enhanced balance sheet including Shareholders' Funds of €197.2m.

Lakeland Dairies is the largest cross-border dairy processing co-operative on the island of Ireland. Its annual report for 2019 is the first since the historic merger of Lakeland Dairies and LacPatrick Dairies, completed in April last year.

The co-operative collects 1.85 billion litres of milk from 3,200 farm families across 16 counties in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The co-operative has a portfolio of 240 different dairy products made on eight processing sites which it exports to 80 countries worldwide.

Food Ingredient revenues increased by 19% to €583.8m, based on overall positive trading conditions, strong demand for the Co-Op's functional and enriched powders, proteins and dairy fats, and organic growth across the combined ingredients operations of both former societies.

The Foodservice Division delivered revenues of €239m. Lakeland said its Consumer Foods delivered a solid performance in 2019 in line with expectations, yielding revenues of €139.7m for the year with all categories providing growth.

Revenues in its Agribusiness Division at  €72.4m were in line with budget expectations. Feed volumes of over 210,000 tonnes and fertiliser volume of over 27,000 tonnes were reported.

Lakeland Dairies group chief executive Michael Hanley said he was happy with the 2019 performance.

"As a business, we're pleased to report this strong and prudent set of accounts. This is a positive outcome for 2019, based on a strong and efficient performance across all operating divisions," he said,

But the CEO acknowledged that there are considerable challenges ahead.

"The ongoing market disruption caused by the Covid-19 global pandemic has put a significant drag on markets, particularly in the food service sector," he said.

"A lack of clarity on the shape of the trading relationship between the EU and the UK post-Brexit is of concern to us too. Not to mention the ongoing global dairy supply and demand dynamic which has a huge influence on international markets," he added.

Lakeland Dairies Chairman Alo Duffy said the merger has been a success.

"This has enabled us to go from strength to strength and it is now instrumental in our capacity to deal with the current challenging times facing us all," he stated.