Concerns have been raised about chicken prices in Northern Ireland after Moy Park has announced it is temporarily scaling back production
The poultry giant is one of Northern Ireland’s largest employers but “labour market challenges and customer growth” has caused the company to suspend the slaughter of birds at its Ballymena site.
Moy Park has said there will be no job losses as a result and that staff will be moved to other production lines like barbeque products, it has also blamed labour market challenges for the change.
Two unions have now expressed concern for the move including the Ulster Farmers’ Union who say a drop in demand for poultry will badly affect local farmers who supply Moy Park.
Unite the Union has also accused the company of not properly managing labour shortages after Brexit.
Speaking on BBC Good Morning Ulster was UFU representative for poultry farmers William Irvine as well as Sean McKeever from Unite.
Mr Irvine said the situation was yet another financial pressure for poultry farmers along with an increase in energy and grain prices.
Mr McKeever said the company is currently “sleepwalking into a bigger problem” and urged them to wisely invest over £86m in profits last year into the workforce.
He said Brexit had made it harder to recruit migrant workers and although Moy Park had announced any job losses, people were leaving the company.
"That’s all because of the terms and conditions, the 12 hour shifts these people are expected to work and how they’re being treated, and until the company addresses that problem...and if they don’t address that problem I have serious concerns about the viability of the company.”
Mr Irvine added that the change with Moy Park would amount to a 15% reduction in income for poultry farmers.
"All the increased costs of labour, energy and feed inputs that Moy Park are quoting apply most certainly to our farmers.
"They are in the pinch here....these increased costs are going to end up being passed on to the consumer because processors and farmers cannot continue to soak up these increases.”
Commenting on the temporary changes at the Ballymena site, a spokesperson for Moy Park said: “As we respond to customer growth and labour market challenges, we are proposing to move team members from the live bird processing line to our further processing lines, enabling us to increase production at Ballymena.
“No jobs will be impacted by these changes however we are planning to temporarily pause live bird processing at Ballymena as we focus on seasonal and retail products. The live processing line will restart again in September. We will be working closely with our farming partners throughout the process to manage this temporary reduction in poultry requirement.”