Chris Kirke, Moy Park’s new president believes despite Brexit, there is a huge opportunity for the business on the back of strong demand growth for poultry in the UK market. He was speaking at the launch of the Farmers Journal/KPMG Agribusiness report in Belfast earlier this week.
Current demand in the UK is 20m birds per week
Moy Park is Northern Ireland’s largest private sector company, processing an average of 5.7m birds per week last year, and Kirke believes the UK market will grow at 3% or 600,000 birds per week each year over the next few years.
Current demand in the UK is 20m birds per week. He says the growth is coming from consumers switching from other protein sources such as red meat to poultry.
This will create a big opportunity for the business, according to Kirke. Moy Park supplies a range of fresh chicken products under private label brands.
Supplying some 30% of the UK poultry market, Kirke is concerned about the impact a hard or no-deal Brexit may have on the business. He says that while it has made arrangements with its retail partners in the near term, this is a product with only nine days of shelf life so delays at ports or customs in any Brexit scenario could have knock-on consequences. He said the company has explored options around routes to market.
After all, we are the most expensive place to grow chicke
He is also concerned about the possibility of cheap imports coming into the UK from South American countries such as Brazil. “After all, we are the most expensive place to grow chicken” according to Kirke. However, he believes that provenance will continue to be important to UK consumers, but that the industry must get better at telling their story around quality, welfare and environmental standards.
The company has 800 growers across the UK and Northern Ireland. He says that despite the main market being in Britain, Moy Park is very committed to Northern Ireland processing and poultry growers. “This is where the birds are,” he adds.
Moy Park employs 12,000 people across the business with more than 6,000 people in its Northern Ireland operations
The company is continuing to invest in both Northern Ireland and Britain. Last year, Moy Park was acquired by US poultry processor, Pilgrim’s Pride for $1.3bn. (€1.2bn). Today, Moy Park employs 12,000 people across the business with more than 6,000 people in its Northern Ireland operations making it the North’s largest private sector business.
The former CEO of Greencore’s US division said the new owners are very committed to growing Moy Park.
He said it has always been the jewel in the crown of its many owners down through the years and added that it would also look at acquisitions in order to grow.
The latest accounts filed for Moy Park show that it had sales of £1.5bn (€1.7bn) in 2017 with pre-tax profits of £64.5m (€73m). The business has doubled in size over the last 10 years. Moy Park also supplies 25% of the total Western European chicken parent market.
While there are wider industry challenges around welfare and the environment, he believes Moy Park can be competitive but it must drive efficiencies and continue to innovate while working with its growers and retail partners to succeed.