If approved by the relevant regulatory and competition authorities, the acquisition by ABP Food Group of the remaining 50% share of the Linden Foods business will make the Goodman owned company the dominant player in beef and sheep processing in NI.
The evolving relationship between ABP and Fane Valley co-op, the current owners of 50% of Linden Foods, began in 2016 when the Allen family decided to sell their share of the entire Slaney Foods business to ABP.
With the other half of Slaney Foods belonging to Linden, it effectively brought both ABP and Fane Valley together in a Joint Venture (JV) that also included Irish Country Meats lamb processing sites in Navan and Camolin, and A. Lonhienne in Belguim.
The following year the JV was extended when ABP took a 50% stake in the Linden Foods business in NI.
The deal announced last Thursday will see farmer-owned Fane Valley sell its stake in the entire JV to ABP for an undisclosed sum. In NI it will mean ABP will process approximately 40% of the total cattle kill, and around 60% of all lambs slaughtered locally.
It also effectively marks the end of the involvement of farmer owned co-ops in redmeat processing in Ireland.
In recent years Fane Valley has significantly downsized its business, while concentrating on potentially more profitable areas such as animal feeds and farm supplies. It sold its Armaghdown Creamery business to Lakeland Dairies in 2016.
Commenting on the Linden deal, UFU deputy president William Irvine said it could benefit the NI livestock sector by strengthening export relations to other countries. “However, it is essential that competition between the processors is not hindered in any way going forward,” he noted.