Dale Farm CEO Nick Whelan believes that Brexit could prove challenging for the North’s dairy sector. He said that outsiders looking in may be of the opinion that Dale Farm is well set up to cope with Britain’s departure from the EU.

"Yes, all our processing facilities are in the UK, as are all our milk suppliers and we are 100% Red Tractor.

“In addition, 85% of our total output is sold to customers in the United Kingdom.

The UK is far from being self-sufficient, where the likes of cheese, butter and yoghurt are concerned.

“And, of course, we have benefited from the weakening of sterling that followed the EU referendum result.

“This is all positive. But the scenario could change completely if the UK signs up to cheap food import deals with other countries around the world."

But Whelan is particularly concerned about any reduction in direct farm support levels in Northern Ireland, which could happen once London takes over the running of farm policy post-Brexit.

“The complete removal of the Single Farm Payment could take the equivalent of 5p/L off the milk price available to local producers. This could result in the wipe-out of farming and food processing as we know it in Northern Ireland.

“Even if the direct payment reduction came in at the equivalent of 2p/L, many local dairy farmers could not survive. This is a message that we are communicating in the strongest possible terms to London through the auspices of Dairy UK and other industry bodies.”

Whelan also confirmed that Dale Farm will continue with its winter bonus scheme in 2017. This will see the co-op pay an additional 2p/L above base for milk supplied in October, November and December.

“We will also push ahead with our winter production premium in 2017. As was the case last year, farmers will receive an extra 4p/L on all extra milk produced during the period of the winter premium.

“This year the increase will be measured against recorded production levels in October, November and December 2015.”