Against a backdrop of post-Brexit uncertainty, the sale of Dunbia’s Ballymena plant to UK based Cranswick plc has brought some good news for Northern Ireland’s Agri-food industry and more specifically, the pork industry. Cranswick plc, one of the UK’s largest food producers, is investing in the NI economy with a specialism in pig farming and pork production.
It is the synergies between Cranswick and Dunbia which have made this deal a natural progression for the future of pork production in Northern Ireland and should reassure pig producers and customers alike. Both companies started out in farming – Cranswick in pigs and Dunbia in beef and lamb – so have a first-hand understanding of farming systems and the issues facing producers. As each company has grown, they have developed into two of the most reputable food manufacturers in the UK with strong, long-term partnerships with some of the largest retailers in Europe. Both are key players in the food production supply chain with a determined focus on creating a sustainable and profitable industry across the chain.
It was Dunbia’s focus on creating a sustainable and profitable industry that led to the purchase of the Ballymena pork facility in 2009, at a time when it was on the verge of closure. With no previous experience in pork production, Dunbia transformed the facility increasing volumes from 2000 to almost 8000 pigs per week and more than trebling the workforce, creating job opportunities in the local area and equally importantly securing the future of the pig industry and pig farmers in Northern Ireland.
The decision to sell to Cranswick is further reinforcement of Dunbia’s commitment to a sustainable industry as affirmed by Jim Dobson, Dunbia Group Chief Executive: “Cranswick specialise in pork production and have the scale and growth potential to continue this work which is natural fit for their business. Dunbia is pleased to welcome the investment of a major UK PLC into the Northern Ireland economy and we wish them every success.”
The decision by Cranswick to retain Jack Dobson in a consultancy capacity has been welcomed by the pork industry, not only to ensure a smooth transition but also to capitalise on work Dunbia has already undertaken. Dunbia has been working closely with DAERA and Invest NI for many years to identify and open new markets. It was the first company to export NI pork products to India and has secured provisional approval from the Chinese authorities to allow exports into this important marketplace. Jack Dobson’s experience in these negotiations will ensure that this work will continue.
Mr Ian Paisley, MP for North Antrim who has supported Dunbia in their development of the Ballymena facility and in their pursuit of new export markets, gave the sale to Cranswick his full backing: “The contribution which Dunbia has made to North Antrim and to the wider Northern Ireland Agri-Food industry is commendable and I would like to congratulate the management and staff of the Ballymena facility for their achievements to date. Seven years ago, Dunbia stepped in to save the Ballymena pig plant from certain closure which would have had devastating consequences for local employment and for our pig farmers. Since then, they have created new jobs in an area which has been hit with rising unemployment and given pig producers a sustainable and more positive outlook, not least through their drive to secure new export markets. With Cranswick’s experience in the pork industry, Dunbia has chosen the ideal company to take the Ballymena pork facility to the next stage of development and we look forward to continued growth and development in the area.”