The pork and bacon chairman of the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU), Ivor Ferguson, said the management buyout, which will save 4,000 jobs, was a “fresh opportunity for the local pig industry in Northern Ireland”.
Ferguson said the deal would remove any uncertainty over the future of local pig processing. He said: “I anticipate that the new management team will wish to follow through on plans to increase the capacity of the Vion plant in Cookstown. I hope this will signal an upturn in fortunes for the industry which has endured a very difficult 2012.”
In light of the news, Ferguson said better lines of communication between Vion and farmers were needed and he hoped to be the one to develop these with the new management team. He said the UFU’s message to Vion was that pig farmers in Northern Ireland produced pigs to a consistently high standard and are a match for any competitors in the EU.
The country’s ability to produce top quality pork is achieved by using genetics from the best breeding companies in the world, he said. “Indeed we have a great record of exporting superior breeding pigs to other countries.”
It was also highlighted by the chairman that several systems, which were developed by the UFU and other agricultural organisations, had played a part in the country’s ability to produce quality pork. He said: “The Pig Grading Information System (PIGIS) recording system means producers receive text messages the day after their pigs are slaughtered informing them of their grading results and other management information. This is a leading edge use of IT which won the Practice with Science Award at this years Oxford Farming Conference.
“The UFU is actively encouraging all pig producers to use this technology and also to benchmark their pig production. Despite our track record on quality and innovation, Northern Ireland pig farmers have consistently been paid less for their pigs than the GB price and this remains a fundamental issue which will need to be addressed.”
On 13 December this year Vion NV, the Dutch-based meat processing company, agreed a management buyout of its UK pork business, which came less than a month after it was announced the company’s UK operations would be sold.
The current managing director of Vion’s UK pork business Seamus Carr is leading the buyout, which was backed by a UK private equity firm called Endless and will see around 4,000 jobs saved across the UK and Ireland.
It was announced last month that Vion was to pull out of the UK, which put 13,000 jobs at risk over 38 sites across the country. The decision to remove operations was made as Vion wanted to focus on its business in the Netherlands and Germany.