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Coronavirus: Northern Ireland doesn't have adequate supply chain to cope with a crisis of this magnitude, says business chief


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Some Northern Ireland firms have adapted in order to help produce personal protective equipment (PPE) a

Some Northern Ireland firms have adapted in order to help produce personal protective equipment (PPE) a

PA

Stephen Kelly

Stephen Kelly

Some Northern Ireland firms have adapted in order to help produce personal protective equipment (PPE) a

Northern Ireland does not have a supply chain capable of coping with a crisis on the scale of coronavirus, a business leader here has said.

Stephen Kelly of Manufacturing NI said the region is no longer equipped to supply equipment to those tackling the pandemic - a situation that should be examined to ensure we have sufficient production and supply in future.

And while some of our most resilient firms have adapted in order to help produce personal protective equipment (PPE) and other necessities for frontline workers, Mr Kelly said: "We know now that there has not been sufficient attention to keeping or supporting firms who provide resilient supply chains for our frontline and priority sectors at home.

"In some ways, we are lucky that O'Neills, Randox, Huhtamaki, Bloc Blinds, Diamond Corrugated Cases, Armstrong Medical, Echlinville Distillery and hundreds of others have been able to quickly put their experience, equipment and people to productive use.

"But, equally we shouldn't have to require our firms to raid their stores looking for PPE or rolls of material to pass to our nurses.

"We shouldn't have to beg our international supply chains to get on to production schedules or to get the raw materials or get extra boxes on to aeroplanes from suppliers where demand outstrips supply many times over.

"Hundreds of our manufacturers are providing life-sustaining, priority goods for consumption at home and as part of international supply chains.

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Stephen Kelly

Stephen Kelly

Stephen Kelly

"Just last week, I spoke to businesses who send material to China which has come back as part of the critical protection for frontline workers to keep them safe; another who works with people supplying oxygen masks and the new Covid-19 test to keep us healthy; another providing digital infrastructure. But, we are no longer equipped to be able to meet all the demands of those tackling this virus at home."

He said a survey showed 600 firms here have repurposed or begun working with others to "meet the needs of those on the frontline in tacking this Covid-19 emergency".

He continued: "A lot has been written over the years about the critical importance energy 'security of supply'.

"But at the same time we largely allowed the security of supply of textiles and other items which have now come in to sharp focus as being equally critical.

"We should develop, equip and sustain local supply chain resilience."

Mr Kelly added: "The government as a buyer, committed to sourcing proven quality products here at home that we know will be there when it is needed and called upon, must form part of our strategy to protect the health of our people, the wellbeing of frontline workers and indeed part of the necessary rebuilding of our economy."

Belfast Telegraph