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Firm producing 4m eggs a day hails its quick recovery after Covid sales slump

But firm’s boss is optimistic for the future despite pre-tax profits drop


Plans: Lough Erne Investments managing director Charles Crawford

Plans: Lough Erne Investments managing director Charles Crawford

Plans: Lough Erne Investments managing director Charles Crawford

Lisnaskea egg processing business, Lough Erne Investments, has posted a sales drop of 10% to £58m in its latest accounts.

The company also revealed a decrease in pre-tax profits, down 7% to £7.4m.

Its main subsidiary is Ready Egg Products, which produces pasteurised liquid egg products, hard boiled eggs, and scrambled egg as well as egg yolk and egg white products.

Its financial report, which covers the year ending December 25, 2020, also showed a drop in staff, with the team down 13 members on the previous year to 160.

Commenting in the company accounts, managing director Charles Crawford said the pandemic and its subsequent restrictions and forced closures of hospitality establishments contributed to the declines at the business.

Among the company’s clients are restaurants including McDonald’s and food processors.

Mr Crawford said: “The onset of Covid in March caused a decrease of 70% in sales which affected profit and employment but fortunately we were able to recover our market quite quickly.

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“Despite all the difficulties we regard the final 2020 results as satisfactory.”

The Fermanagh company, which produces around four million eggs per day, is one of the biggest operations of its kind in the UK.

It paid out £3.5m in wages over the financial period, a decrease of over £1m on the year prior.

Meanwhile the five directors at the business took home £66,060, a rise from 2019’s £63,975.

Around 95% of Ready Eggs’ products go to food processors around Britain, with around 3% going over the border and just 2% staying in Northern Ireland.

The company dates back to 1975 when shell egg production began at the Lisnaskea site. Back then it was known as Erne Eggs Ltd.

Charles Crawford established the business, then diversified his offering to include egg products in 2002, with the acquisition of Lisburn-based liquid egg processing facility, Gracey’s.

That line moved to Lisnaskea and in 2007 the company became known as Ready Egg Products Ltd.

A move into the Republic market followed as part of an alliance with Greenfield Foods, one of the Republic’s biggest egg firms, and the acquisition of Irish Egg Products which also moved to Lisnaskea.

New products were added to the portfolio and an English plant followed when Mr Crawford invested £7m in a site in Chesterfield.

The firm’s eggs are supplied by small family-owned farms in Northern Ireland, with 80% of production within 20 miles from its main office in Lisnaskea

It says: “All of our farmers have a strong foundation in livestock production and understand that high standards of animal welfare go hand in hand with efficient production.”

The company says it has plans to commission a new powdered egg plant this year.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph about Brexit in recent years, Mr Crawford said it presented opportunities for the firm.

He said at the time investment in the business would be key to remaining “ahead of the posse at all times”.

He added: "We see Brexit as a challenge and if it's handled right, which it might not be, it's an opportunity.

"If there are import levies on stuff coming in, it's an opportunity for people to produce more car components, to produce more eggs, we just have to step up to the challenge."