Belfast Telegraph

Currency rates bite into meat firm profits

By John Mulgrew

A Northern Ireland meat firm that has seen its profits halve says it's been hit by fluctuating currency rates and wants to see the current tariff-free border remain after Brexit.

Overall, turnover at Ballymena-based Doherty & Gray was down from £39.6m to £38.7m in the year to March 31, 2017.

Pre-tax profits fell from £811,846 to £389,367 during the same period.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, company financial controller Nigel McAleese said: "We are a beef and lamb wholesaler and make burgers and sausages.

"That would be roughly £6m of our turnover.

"In that area, it's been difficult due to deflation.

"In the sausage market, there is quite intensive pressure and promotional activity.

"We would sell into the supermarkets.

"It's the pressure in the retail sector... that would account for the pressure on margins."

The bulk of the firm's business is in beef wholesale.

Mr McAleese added: "And also, the euro, because the meat industry is all-Ireland. We buy from the South.

"The euro would have had a considerable impact, especially after the vote for Brexit."

He said Doherty & Gray would like to see a soft-border and the continuation of the current regulatory environment already in place between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

"Yes. Because the UK is such a large market for all of Ireland, meat and poultry, so yeah, the status quo is to our advantage," he added.

Mr McAleese said the main concern after the UK's withdrawal from Europe would be the introduction of trade tariffs on the frontier.

"I think, because it is such a large part of the economy on both sides of the border, they will have to come to some form of agreement," he said.

Looking to the the year ahead, he predicted that the price of the euro would continue to be the main issue for the business.

"If it stays stable you can adapt. When it fluctuates, in terms of maybe 5-10%, that is where there is an issue," he pointed out.

Doherty & Gray employs around 110 staff.

Meanwhile, earlier this week Northern Ireland poultry giant Moy Park offloaded a production plant in Dublin in a multi-million euro deal.

The Craigavon-based firm sold its Ballymun operation to meat processor Kepak. It's understood the move was part of Kepak's plan to mitigate the potential disruption of Brexit.

The Poppintree plant employs around 35.

Moy Park was sold earlier this year by Brazilian owners JBS to America's Pilgrim's Pride Corporation in a £1bn deal.

A spokeswoman for Moy Park said: "The Dublin facility has been sold to Kepak, one of Ireland's leading meat producers, which has been the site's primary customer for a number of years.

"We believe this is positive news to insure the continuity of operations at Dublin."

Belfast Telegraph

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