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Dunbia sell-off of its pork business 'will boost Northern Ireland's rural economy'

By John Mulgrew

Published 17/11/2016

First Minister Arlene Foster with Jim Dobson, MD of Dunbia Groupa
First Minister Arlene Foster with Jim Dobson, MD of Dunbia Groupa

The sale of Northern Ireland meat giant Dunbia's pork business to Cranswick is good news for the food and agriculture sector here, it has been claimed.

Cranswick has bought the firm's Ballymena arm, which employs round 360 staff and processes almost 8,000 pigs a week.

The value of the deal has not been disclosed.

But the Ballymena operation reported turnover of around £72.4m in the last set of accounts.

The sale is predicted to act as a boost to both companies, as well "contributing to the development of the rural economy, particularly in Co Antrim", according to analysts Shore Capital.

The Belfast Telegraph revealed last year that a teaser document had been prepared for businesses interested in snapping up the Co Tyrone-headquartered company.

Dunbia started life as a red meat processor, primarily beef, but has now grown its reach across the wider meat industry.

Boss Jim Dobson said the pork business "has been a very successful part of the Dunbia Group and has worked tirelessly to create positive expansion opportunities and a sustainable supply chain for Northern Ireland's pig producers and the wider agri-food supply sector".

Mr Dobson said the company was also working to secure access to markets in China.

"Dunbia is pleased to welcome the investment of a major UK plc into the Northern Ireland economy and we wish them every success. The wider Dunbia business is unaffected and will continue as normal."

Norman Robson, pork and bacon chairman of the Ulster Farmers Union, said the sale was a "positive development, given the importance of farming and agri-food to the local economy".

"The UFU is confident farmers will not be affected by the change in ownership and looks forward to meeting Cranswick in the near future."

Set up by Mr Dobson and his brother Jack in 1976, what was a Dungannon butcher's shop has grown into a meat giant, with sites throughout the UK and Ireland, turning over £800m each year.

Jack Dobson will continue on to support the business in a consultancy role with Cranswick.

Adam Couch, chief executive of Cranswick, said the management at Ballymena "have created long-lasting and sustained supply chain relationships and we look forward to building on this and continuing to invest in the facilities, and the team over the years ahead.

"We welcome Jack and the team at Ballymena to Cranswick and look forward to working with them to develop the business further."

It's understood Dunbia has also been in talks with UK firm 2 Sisters about a possible merger around its red meat business.

Belfast Telegraph

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