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Brexit: We just want certainty, says Huhtamaki chief

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General manager of Huhtamaki (Lurgan) Ltd, Richard Smith, said the packaging manufacturer has already invested significant sums in stockpiling spare parts to avoid production from grinding to a halt after Brexit

General manager of Huhtamaki (Lurgan) Ltd, Richard Smith, said the packaging manufacturer has already invested significant sums in stockpiling spare parts to avoid production from grinding to a halt after Brexit

PA

Richard Smith

Richard Smith

General manager of Huhtamaki (Lurgan) Ltd, Richard Smith, said the packaging manufacturer has already invested significant sums in stockpiling spare parts to avoid production from grinding to a halt after Brexit

The head of a major Northern Ireland packaging firm has said businesses here just want an end to the Brexit uncertainty.

General manager of Huhtamaki (Lurgan) Ltd, Richard Smith, said the packaging manufacturer has already invested significant sums in stockpiling spare parts to avoid production from grinding to a halt after Brexit.

The subsidiary of the Finnish-based group Huhtamaki employs 237 people from its base in Dollingstown, near Lurgan.

The operation is the largest user of recycled paper in Northern Ireland, converting old newspapers and printing off-cuts into egg cartons, egg trays and cup carriers for the food service sector.

"We just want some certainty, to be honest," said Mr Smith.

"I think the uncertainty of a no-deal would certainly make me nervous. As the name suggests, you don't really know what the implications will be."

With most of its sales within the UK and nearly all its raw materials sourced locally, the packaging firm is not as exposed as some other manufacturers, Mr Smith said

However, the Huhtamaki boss said the Lurgan operation has still spent significant sums on stockpiling spare parts from across Europe.

"We contemplated the risk," he said. "If there's a key part from Holland or Germany or Italy and there are delays in Calais or Dover, and freight is bunged up, we couldn't take the risk.

"We normally have a basic stockpile of parts, but it doesn't cover everything. What we've done is looked at all the critical parts and got them in stock.

"We just couldn't risk the factory or part of the factory being unable to operate because some part is stuck in a queue."

Mr Smith said the firm has been trying to provide security to staff who originate from other parts of the EU.

He said EU staff account for around 10% of its workforce.

"We want them and value them and we've said if there's anything that's required, we'll do what we can to help them."

The general manager said he expects a delay on Brexit as the most likely outcome from the next two weeks, but added: "There are just so many unknowns.

"If you ask anybody in business, when you're trying to get cash, whether it's from the bank, or your own group, what they don't like is uncertainty.

"We're in a growing market, we want to make sure we can satisfy that market and we need to keep investing."

Belfast Telegraph