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£4m investment for Northern Ireland pork processor to ramp up production

By John Mulgrew

Cranswick is spending £4m to boost production at its newly acquired pork processing business in Co Antrim. The English meat giant bought the Cullybackey factory from Dunbia last year.

Boss Adam Couch said it had already ploughed £2m into the business, with plans for a further £2m investment.

Cranswick aims to grow pig processing numbers from 8,000 a week - the level they were at before the acquisition - to 14,000 in the long-term.

Mr Couch said: "We have been dealing with the business before it was Dunbia.

"For the best part of 20 years or so, and increasingly so in the last 24 months, it became increasingly important in the continued supply of materials.

"It made sense to be the interested party for our pig processing side.

"We have been known as investing in the operations.

"We acquired it in November last year, and we have already spent over £2m in flows, production, butchery and the packing hall.

"In the next 18 months it will be another £2m.

"We have a good strong workforce... we have increased automation. We are looking to see how far we can grow the pig numbers.

"The staff are very knowledgeable. A more seamless transition I don't think we have had." The business now processes 10,000 pigs a week, and "with a moderate amount of investment", that can grow to 14,000, he said.

He added it had no plans to buy over other parts of the Dunbia operation, such as beef and lamb processing.

"It wouldn't be on our radar. With poultry and pigs, we have a lot to get our teeth stuck into."

Cranswick is a listed company and employs around 10,000 across 17 sites.

As regards Brexit, Mr Couch said it "wasn't at the front of our mind" when deciding to expand to Northern Ireland, but "it certainly helps and allows access to the Irish market".

"A lot is up in the air (with Brexit)," h added.

"When that settles, we try and keep a close dialogue, particularly with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and wider ministers.

"There are concerns around movement of labour and free access to the world markets."

Cranswick has a significant number of EU nationals working for it across its sites.

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