The country's largest exporter of Irish dairy products, Ornua, has reported operating profit of €153.7m for 2021, up 1.3%.

The dairy co-operative marked 60 years in business and reported an excellent trading performance with group turnover up 6.9% to €2.5 billion.

It was another record year for Kerrygold, with volume growth up 12% on 2020. Kerrygold continues to be the fastest selling brand on supermarket shelves in Germany and is the second biggest butter brand in the US - a market serving 330 million consumers.

During the year, approval was granted for the €40m expansion of Kerrygold Park in Mitchelstown, which will increase Kerrygold's capability to meet growing global demand.

John Jordan, CEO, Ornua said, "Ornua maintained a strong, stable, and sustainable performance year-on-year, as we marked our 60th year in business. Despite persistent challenges, we are pleased to report a 6.9% increase in turnover and a 1.3% increase in operating profit for 2021."

John Jordan, Chief Executive, Ornua

Mr Jordan said the performance delivers on Ornua's commitment to maximise returns to its member co-operatives and the 14,000 farmers who supply them, with a 13.5% increase in the Ornua Value Payment in the year.

Many farmers have found their input costs have dramatically increased, particularly for feed and fertiliser, and yet they are tied to fixed-price milk contracts.

On Morning Ireland, Mr Jordan said Ornua recognises that some farmers find themselves in a challenging situation with regard to their fixed milk price contracts.

He said Ornua is committed to returning the highest product price to members, adding however, that it is not involved in the fixing of milk prices directly with farmers.

"We are supporting our member co-ops by providing flexibility in relation to fixed price product arrangements we have in place with them, allowing co-operatives to target support to where it is most needed."

Ornua's ingredients business also performed strongly as it completed the acquisition of US cheese ingredients business Whitehall Specialities.

It said the addition of these four facilities across Wisconsin and Pennsylvania unlocks substantial growth in both the US and in other markets as Ornua enhances its innovation and manufacturing capabilities.

Ornua purchased €1.2 billion (389,000MT) of premium Irish dairy products, "paying strong prices as reflected in the Ornua Purchase Price Index".

The CEO said this provided a critical global route to market for Ireland’s milk suppliers during a continued period of unprecedented challenges for the global dairy industry.

Ornua said demand in the retail sector was strong, with lockdowns encouraging consumers to eat at home.

While global retail sales of dairy products eased compared to 2020, volumes were above 2019 levels.

Overall foodservice demand was below average, particularly in Europe, but recovered strongly in the US and countries with fewer public restrictions.

Chinese export demand was exceptional, but high pricing stifled demand in other regions. Global export growth was not as strong as in previous years, however, as trade was affected by weaker output and supply chain issues.

In 2021, Ornua set a target of a 25% reduction in Scope 1 & 2 emissions by 2025.

Last year, it said, energy and water audits were completed across manufacturing facilities to identify opportunities for improvement. This enabled the business to develop a group-wide carbon reduction roadmap that clearly outlines a path to reducing its carbon footprint.

The group also set a target of 20% intensity reduction in Scope 3 emissions by 2025 and is collaborating with all stakeholders in the supply chain to examine ways of further reducing its Green House Gas emissions, meeting demands of both customers and consumers.

Ornua said it is committed to 100% fully circular packaging by 2030 and last year began examining all packaging formats in an important step along this journey. The business has successfully moved a number of products in its UK Private Label cheese portfolio to fully recyclable packaging.

The dairy co-operative said the Climate Action Plan and national targets will require enormous effort and close collaboration from all stakeholders. It said Ornua's market-leading product portfolio and diversified global reach will underpin the Group’s long-term sustainability.