A long-established Co Antrim chicken processing business closed its doors yesterday after more than 60 years.
HK Dickey was run by the Dickey family from premises at Granagh Road in rural Cullybackey, close to Ballymena, and employed 48 staff. All have now been made redundant.
Husband and wife Hugh and Sally Dickey established their poultry business in 1957.
Throughout the last six decades it built a reputation for its high-quality products and ethical standards, supplying to leading restaurants and retail outlets across Northern Ireland.
But the business has now called in insolvency practitioners, who are advising the directors on their options.
Managing director Wesley Dickey attributed the company's failure to tightening margins in the sector and difficult trading conditions.
"The company has been under continuous pressure for some time to keep competitive; to reduce prices whilst all the time facing rising wage costs, employee pension costs and the ever-increasing cost of produce and ingredients as well as compliance with regulation," he said.
"My parents Hugh and Sally Dickey, who established the business back in the 1950s, have worked hard alongside me to expand and develop the business with a very loyal customer base supporting us over the years.
"Regrettably, however, the business is no longer viable, and we have had to take the very difficult decision to close our doors."
Mr Dickey thanked his staff for their hard work.
"Our employees have been our greatest asset over the years and I wish to formally record our family's appreciation to them. Their contribution to the business has been immense and it is with the deepest regret that we find ourselves in this situation where we cannot keep trading."
Gildernew & Co, the firm of Insolvency Practitioners appointed to the company, is in contact with the company's suppliers.
It marks yet another blow to employment in the Ballymena area. In April, production came to a halt at the Michelin tyre factory near Broughshane, where 840 workers had been employed in a factory where the first tyre was produced on December 3, 1969.
And the JTI Gallaher tobacco factory near Galgorm closed in 2017 with the loss of 860 jobs.