THE President of Dungannon-based poultry giant Moy Park has announced plans to spend £45m upgrading its factories this year, with a significant amount earmarked for its key Northern Ireland sites.
Speaking at his first visit to the Balmoral Show, Chris 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 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.
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 main sites in Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
“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,” he added.
“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.
“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.”
Ulster Unionist Assembly member for Fermanagh & South Tyrone, Rosemary Barton MLA welcomed the announcement.
“This is good news for the local economy and in particular for the Dungannon site and shows that Moy Park’s US owners are deeply committed to Northern Ireland where it employs 6,000 people,” she said. “The agri-food sector in Northern Ireland is now worth £4.5bn to the Northern Ireland economy, with over 100,000 people employed in the agri- food sector. The Chief has also stated that he has no doubt that Northern Ireland’s agri-food sector will adapt and succeed beyond Brexit.”