Moy Park has announced the suspension of poultry processing at its site in Co Antrim due to “customer growth and labour market challenges.”

The company plans to resume in September when a supply contract with Sainsbury’s is expected to begin.

The former O’Kane poultry site processes approximately 300,000 birds per week.

The Ulster Farmers Union reacted with concern at the announcement, pointing out that “it is the second time this has happened in less than three years.” It will likely mean production will be reduced for farmer suppliers.

Moy Park has, like other meat processors, struggled to maintain staff with the UK’s post-Brexit immigration controls, made worse by COVID-19.

The Irish Farmers Journal understands the company has told farmer suppliers that high input costs including energy supplies have squeezed margins.

Moy Park is part of the US-headquartered Pilgrim’s Pride group in which JBS, the world’s largest meat processor, is the major shareholder.