Animal feeds company boss warns jobs will be lost under hard Brexit
The chief executive of animal feed products firm Devenish Nutrition has said a no deal Brexit could mean loss of jobs at its manufacturing site in Belfast.
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Devenish employs around 200 people out of its global workforce of 450 in the city making feed for pigs, poultry, cattle, sheep, horses and dogs.
Richard Kennedy said that the company is heavily dependent on manufacturing its products using imports from overseas and on export sales. Around 40% of its annual sales are generated overseas.
But Mr Kennedy said a no deal Brexit resulting in tariffs on imports and on exports would put prices up and ultimately have a knock-on effect on consumer prices of animal food products, leaving people less well-off.
The company’s exports are covered by existing EU trade agreements but he said that if the UK fails to get a deal, its sales arrangements overseas could halt overnight.
And he said getting market access in the future could therefore mean having to move manufacturing.
“We could manufacture in the EU to get access to markets and you could have jobs going from Northern Ireland, but it’s really too hard to say. We just don’t know,” he said.
He added he respected the vote for Brexit, but said it was time for politicians to do a deal.
“There was a democratic decision for Brexit so let’s go on and make sure it has a minimal impact on business and on the economy of Northern Ireland, and on people,” he said.
“We need a deal to be done to make it possible for business to continue and grow in Northern Ireland. Any procrastination is now endangering business.”
He said he agreed with the stance of the NI Food and Drink Assocation and its board member Declan Billington that a deal needed to be done.
Mr Kennedy added: “I would be very disappoined if there was a no deal Brexit. I think it would be terrible for Northern Ireland and for people.
“I feel a huge responsiblity for people’s jobs in our business so I would urge more than anything that the politicians on both sides both EU and UK get a deal done and put some certainty in place.
“When the Brexit vote occurred that’s what I asked for on public podiums and we still don’t have that. It’s impossible to predict what the impact of a no-deal Brexit will be.”
Devenish recently announced a long-term funding deal including €40m from the European Investment Bank, which Mr Kennedy said had been delayed by six months due to uncertainty over Brexit.