Belfast Telegraph

Head of Moy Park says poultry giant to invest £45m in plants in 2019

Moy Park president Chris Kirke yesterday at the annual DAERA breakfast at Balmoral Show
Moy Park president Chris Kirke yesterday at the annual DAERA breakfast at Balmoral Show
Ryan McAleer

By Ryan McAleer

Moy Park president Chris Kirke has said the poultry giant will spend £45m upgrading its factories this year, with a significant amount earmarked for its key Northern Ireland sites.

Making his first visit to the Balmoral Show yesterday, Mr Kirke said Moy Park's US owners remain "deeply committed" to Northern Ireland, where it employs 6,000 people.

Pilgrim's Pride acquired Moy Park from Brazilian group JBS in September 2017 for £1bn, replacing chief executive Janet McCollum with Mr Kirke eight months later.

"They massively support the organisation. They are acutely aware of the heritage and it's something they want to preserve," he said.

"We will be an important fixture in Northern Ireland ongoing. We are their European division and they want this to be a bridgehead for further opportunities right across Europe."

Mr Kirke yesterday said he has spent the past year focused on Moy Park's internal workings.

"We have been very focused on getting our operation right internally. We've been very opaque in terms of what that looks like."

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He also confirmed that Moy Park had experienced a slight decrease in its processing plants in recent months, but said it was linked to the weather.

The company president said he expects the UK poultry market to grow by 3% this year, creating demand for an extra 600,000 birds per week.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Kirke described how the company has been preparing for Brexit by stockpiling non-poultry ingredients, including packaging. He said contingencies had been developed for how it can move products between its two main sites in Northern Ireland its main Great Britain sites.

"Where we have frozen products, we're making sure we have enough stock of finished good material that we are able to supply into the market," he added.

Mr Kirke also said that the decision to close a kill line at Moy Park's Ballymena plant in April was a temporary measure with no job losses.

"We've looked at our entire network and we've looked at where we process our birds. Ballymena was representing 5% of our whole bird killing.

"So we've taken the kill capacity out temporarily as we don't need that capacity and we've redeployed significant numbers of the workforce into our added-value facility that operates there.

"We really do understand how important we are to Northern Ireland both as an employer and as a member of the community," he added.

"We want to work closely with our growers and suppliers alike, and be a sustainable employer for 12,000 people, 6,000 of those who are in Northern Ireland."

Belfast Telegraph