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Agri firm expands as demand from Europe increases

By Rachel Martin

A Londonderry agri-engineering boss says he is struggling to keep up with international demand.

Global exports have driven the expansion of Fleming Agri-products, which employs 90 staff at its 60,000 sq ft site.

Company director George Fleming explained that the problem his firm faces is not a lack of demand, but having the staff to cope with the "positive enquiries" he said the firm was receiving.

In 2013, the company completed a £1.1m expansion and is currently in the process of employing an export sales manager to connect with European customers. This year, the firm received help from Invest NI to invest £600,000 in export drive and expansion.

Mr Fleming said: "We are having a lot of positive enquiries from customers in Europe that we don't have the resources to follow up.

"The thing about Europe is that it's quite easy to access logistically, but I would like to get a rep over to support customers better and suggest other products they might benefit from."

Mr Fleming is the fourth generation of his family to run the engineering firm which makes agricultural equipment. Set up in Donegal over 150 years ago, it moved to nearby Newbuildings in Co Londonderry in 1983.

It started out in the 1800s, producing flat-bottom boats, but with the mechanisation of farming and decline of the fishing industry, the family followed demand.

Today, the company sells the majority of its products, 85%, outside of Northern Ireland and over 60% outside the island of Ireland.

The firm also launched its products in Australia in March 2012 and then in New Zealand one year later.

Last year, it had a turnover of £8m and a pre-tax profit of £674,00, a fall of £215,099 on the previous year despite an increase in its turnover.

Mr Fleming said of the firm's expanding export market: "It was a steep learning curve.

"We satisfied our own home market so started to expand out to Dublin. Then we started taking products over to England and put a rep over there.

"We do exactly the same thing in each country, we investigate the market, do the research. We have the same products, but each time we have to adapt the design to suit that country.

"The needs of each country are different and different legislation for guarding means we need to make sure we have a product that we are allowed to sell."

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