For the second time in less than three years, Northern Ireland (NI) poultry company Moy Park has decided to suspend the processing of live birds at its site in Ballymena, Co Antrim.

A spokesperson for the company said that the decision was in response to “customer growth and labour market challenges” and that team members currently working on the live bird line will be moved to further processing lines within the factory.

“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,” said the spokesperson.

Moy Park, like many other companies in the local agri-food sector, has been struggling to recruit workers under new UK immigration rules post-Brexit and that situation has not been helped by other absences related to COVID-19.

However, it is also understood that in communications with farmer suppliers, the company cited high input costs, including of energy, which have left margins squeezed.

300,000 birds

The Ballymena site processes around 300,000 birds per week, so it is likely to mean that farmer suppliers in NI will now face a longer period with houses empty between crops.

“We will be working closely with our farming partners throughout the process to manage this temporary reduction in poultry requirement,” confirmed the spokesperson.

The company hopes to get the live bird processing line at Ballymena up and running again by September, when it is understood that a major contract to supply Sainsbury’s will kick in.

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