Irish dairy co-operative Lakeland Dairies said it made further “strong progress” in a “challenging” international trading environment in 2012 with an increase in earnings and sales.

In the 12 months ended 29 December, net profit climbed 13.2% to EUR6.8m (US$8.9m) the group reported today (11 April). Operating profit rose 16% to EUR7.9m.

Chief executive Michael Hanley said the co-operative placed a “very strong” emphasis on its marketing, business development and customer service operations and enhanced its brand presence and product sales in key markets in 2012.

Sales in the period reached EUR473m from EUR472m last year. The group’s food ingredients division recorded a sales drop of 9.5% to EUR255m due to overall volatility and pricing pressures in the international markets.

Hanley said: “Overall prospects for the global economy remain uncertain and weak economic conditions are likely to persist in developed economies throughout 2013. Significantly stronger growth is expected in emerging economies. Global milk supplies have reduced and import demand remains solid in key importing regions. This will create an upside potential for Irish dairy exports and prices in 2013.”