Belfast Telegraph

Moy Park partial factory closure will put farming business at risk - union

UFU deputy president David Brown
UFU deputy president David Brown
Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

A union has warned a partial shut down of Moy Park's Ballymena factory will pose a risk to farming business in Northern Ireland.

The Ulster Farmers' Union said chicken farmers were already under "massive cash flow pressures" given many were on the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme which has had its lucrative tariffs slashed as the Government tries to bring down its costs to the public purse.

Moy Park said it was ending the processing of live birds in Ballymena which would have a knock-on effect on its nearby hatchery. Other production processes would continue. Operations are scheduled to partially resume in November 2019 with full production resuming in 2020.

It blamed "challenging market conditions".

Around 1,700 people are employed at the site and unions fear the temporary shutdown could become permanent with the loss of 400 jobs.

However, it's understood Moy Park has plenty of job availability and redeployment options for its workforce.

Industry sources have said the partial closure amounts to almost half of Moy Park's production.

It's thought around 600 farms in Northern Ireland supply the firm's two main factories in Northern Ireland with farmers warning of a big impact on their business and through supply chains.

UFU deputy president David Brown said the announcement was yet another blow to Northern Ireland poultry producers.

"Many are already facing massive cash flow pressures within their businesses following the recent amendment to RHI tariffs and this news is likely to mean a further income hit," he said.

"Moy Park is Northern Ireland’s largest employer and made profits of over £72 million in 2017. While they have said the decision is temporary, producers are very disappointed that the company cannot stand by them during this period of weaker demand.

"In recent years, retailers have been reluctant to pass on inflationary rises and the cost of the living wage to consumers and there is continuous pressure for the supply chain to reduce its costs. Yet again we have seen this squeeze come onto the primary producer and there is a very real risk that some farmers will have to close their business.”

Moy Park said it would continue to work closely with its farming partners.

Based in Craigavon, Co Armagh, it employs 6,300 people across Northern Ireland and 12,000 more at operations in the Republic and elsewhere in Europe.

Founded in 1943, it was bought by JBS from Marfig for £1.2bn in 2015 before being sold on to the Pilgrim's Pride Corporation in September 2017, a subsidiary of JBS. That purchase is currently subject of legal proceedings in the US by shareholders to determine if the transaction was fair.

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