Bright outlook for Connaught Gold

SIGNIFICANT changes in the operations of Connacht Gold have been signalled by the co-op, which described its performance in 2003 as a healthy improvement on the previous year.

The society had an operating profit of €2.17 million compared with an operating loss of €1.10m in 2002. Turnover rose by 7.4% to €269.5m. Pre-tax profit was €1.7m.

Chief executive Aaron Forde said the primary policy aim of the society was to return a competitive milk price to suppliers and to retain and increase milk volumes processed. Concurrently adequate returns had to be generated from all operations to reinvest in the development of the business.

A combination of co-operation with other interests, product improvement, and market development of the dairy ingredient range should help to cushion the expected drop in market prices in the second half of 2004.

Mr Forde said the major area of cost in Connacht Gold’s uniquely dispersed and costly milk assembly operations would have to be tackled with radical solutions. The element of subsidy had to be removed so milk price competitiveness could be sustained, he said.

Chairman Padraig Gibbons said the healthy improvement in the 2003 results represented effective control of costs and the benefit from increased volumes of milk processed in the co-op’s Ballaghaderreen plant.

Connacht Gold’s liquid milk business, in common with other co-ops, faced increasing competition from milk of Northern Ireland origin which now accounted for almost 20% of the Republic’s market.

The co-op was founded in 2000 by the merger of North Connacht Farmers Co-op and Kiltoghert Co-op. It has 1,386 milk suppliers and an average of 593 employees.

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