Northern Ireland agri firm joins May on Africa trade mission
A Northern Ireland agri-tech company is heading to Africa alongside Prime Minister Theresa May on her first official visit to the continent.
Devenish, based in Belfast, develops sustainable and innovative animal nutrition products and solutions for the feed industry, the food industry and for human health, trading in over 40 countries around the world.
Its group CEO is among 29 business leaders from across the UK heading to Africa. They will visit South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya, meeting with leading businesses, policy makers and entrepreneurs, in the hope of building new investment, trading and export ties between the UK and these emerging markets.
Mrs May said: "Devenish is an excellent example of the kind of forward-thinking company which is driving economic growth and prosperity both here in the UK and overseas. I am pleased that they are joining me on this visit to Africa, where their strengths in innovation and technology are representative of the unique offer which the UK holds for growing markets across the continent."
Richard Kennedy of Devenish said: "I am delighted to join the Prime Minister's visit to Africa, a continent which represents significant opportunity for Devenish. We already have a presence in Africa which we are focused on growing, organically and through acquisition.
"It is important for us as both exporters and potential investors to build strong relations on the ground and this trade mission is a valuable opportunity to do so.
"For Devenish, when moving into a new market, it is crucial that we have sustainable agricultural systems in place which are appropriate to the region from the very start.
"This trade mission will allow us to forge significant relations that will help us in our future endeavours."
The visit will allow Devenish to build on its relationships with partners in Africa and explore further opportunities for growth, delivering sustainable solutions for farming businesses overseas.
During the trip, the Prime Minister will set out how new partnerships between the UK and Africa can add value to the UK economy, create new market opportunities for British businesses, and boost jobs and prosperity for the benefit of all.
In a separate development, Devenish has revealed how landmark funding from the European Investment Bank (EIB) was almost scuppered by Brexit.
The firm is in talks to acquire at least seven companies in Europe, Africa, Asia, the US, the UK and Central America after securing €118m (£107m) in long-term funding, comprised of €40m (£36m) from the EIB, with commitments from Ulster Bank and Danske Bank.
The deal was the first support for the agri-business sector on the island of Ireland under the Investment Plan for Europe, in which the European Commission and EIB are strategic partners.
Two years ago Devenish unveiled a new Omega 3-enriched chicken which it brought to market with Moy Park.
The latest investment will be used to develop a purpose-built Global Innovation Centre in Dowth, Co Meath.
Devenish aims to boost its turnover by more than £100m to £315m and add around 100 jobs to its current 450-strong international workforce by 2021. Devenish, which is directing much of its R&D in the US, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, revealed how Brexit almost scuppered the EIB deal.
Mr Kennedy said: "It faltered and stuttered around Brexit, because of the EIB being a European bank and because of the uncertainty around Brexit.
"The deal took a bit longer than expected. That was to ensure we were able to mitigate all the risks and to have a strategy in place to deal with any eventualities around a hard Brexit and a soft Brexit.
"The patient equity the EIB put in will go across the UK and Ireland. We are not going to allow Brexit to take those opportunities away."
In 2017 Devenish bought a 50% stake in Yem-Vit, a Turkish maker of poultry, ruminant and aquaculture products. Now it's in talks to buy as many as seven companies. Mr Kennedy said: "They are small acquisitions - bolt-ons that will give us enriched chicken."