Lakeland Dairies has announced higher revenues and operating profits for 2020, while it also said it paid a "competitive" milk price to milk producers throughout the year.

Farmer-owned Lakeland Dairies is the largest cross-border dairy processing co-operative on the island of Ireland.

It collects 1.9 billion of 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 over 80 countries worldwide.

It reported record revenues of €1.09 billion across its four operating divisions of Food Ingredients, Foodservice, Consumer Foods and Agribusiness, an increase of 5.7% on the previous year's figure of €1.03 billion.

Operating profits for the year rose by 27% to €26m, while its EBITDA (Earnings before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortisation) increased by €7.6m to €50.5m.

Revenues at Lakeland's Ingredients Division increased by 18% to €691m, based on consistently strong demand for its functional and enriched powders, proteins and dairy fats throughout the year.

Lakeland Dairies produced over 250,000 tonnes of powders and butter in 2020.

Its Foodservice Division reported revenues of €181.7m despite what it called a very challenging year.

It said this was down 24% on the previous year due to the exceptionally difficult market conditions experienced by the sector as a result of the Covid pandemic.

Lakeland said its Consumer Foods division had a "buoyant" year in line with an uplift in overall grocery market growth levels, with revenues of €145.9m

Meanwhile, Lakeland Agri increased revenues by 4.7% to €75.8m for the year, based on a strong performance with feed sales volumes of 220,000 tonnes and fertiliser sales steady at 27,000 tonnes, similar to 2019

Lakeland Dairies Group chief executive Michael Hanley said the results are very positive given the global events of 2020.

"Notwithstanding the major operational, logistical and commercial constraints of the pandemic, both domestically and globally, we continued to make strong progress across all of our operations and this has yielded excellent results. We paid a competitive milk price throughout the year in line with market conditions," Mr Hanley said.

The CEO also said the co-op further consolidated the benefits of the Lakeland LacPatrick merger of 2019, achieving ongoing organisational, operational and administrative efficiencies.

"This robust performance enabled us to pay a competitive milk price in spite of serious market uncertainties that existed throughout the year," Mr Hanley said.

"Market returns depend on the dynamic of milk supply and demand that exists between countries, geographies and continents, also including seasonality and force majeure issues such as the pandemic," he added.

Michael Hanley said he expects relatively stable dairy market conditions through 2021 albeit there are still significant challenges in Lakeland's operating environment as it waits for the anticipated beneficial effect of worldwide vaccine initiatives.