Co-op eyes €100m development

CONNACHT Gold Co-op has a substantial land bank of close to 300 acres that it plans to develop in the next few years at a cost of €100 million.

One site in Swinford Co Mayo will be developed at a cost of up to €15m and is already at the planning stage while a further 70 acres site near Sligo town will be developed mainly as a housing project.

Speaking at the launch of the group’s annual results in Dublin yesterday, Aaron Forde, chief executive, expressed concern at the slowdown in milk quota transfers among farmers.

The number of farmers still milking fell from 2000 to 1200 in the past seven years. But the group needs to get that figure down to between 500 and 600 “if we want to hit where the experts say we should be”, he said.

Despite those concerns the co-op delivered good results in 2006 with sales and profits up on the previous year.

Activity increased across its divisions with agribusiness well ahead due to increased sales and the acquisition of the feed-milling business Thomas McDonogh & Sons.

Gross profit increased by 6.6% to €64 million in the year from €60m while sales for the 12 months hit €309.3m, an increase of €36.2m, or 13%, on the 2005 figure.

Mr Forde said every division within the business experienced sales growth while in a difficult year for dairying operating profit was maintained at €3.2m.

Retail and food services saw sales rise from €34.8m to €38.5m. The group sells to large multiples, symbol groups and smaller retail outlets.

Products include the traditional ranges of milk, butter, creams, juices and meats. More recently it has added new offerings in symbiotic drinks, health speciality milks and food service items.

The stores have also continued to expand hardware and gardening lines and redevelopment programmes are in progress. Ballinrobe and Ballyhaunis, which include garden centres, have been very successful, the group said.

Dairy Ingredients which involves milk assembly and processing delivered a turnover of €77.2m, up from €72.5m and its division is active in Britain through Kent Foods.

Elsewhere marts and properties boosted turnover from €59.9m to €66.9m.

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