“Recovery of feed prices from the market place is the largest challenge for Moy Park at the present " David Gibson, General Manager , Agriculture, Moy Park told the NI Grain Trade Association.

“The retailer and the consumer must realise that if they want safe, wholesome locally produced food with quality guarantees and full traceability, grown in environmentally friendly conditions with high animal welfare, they must be prepared to pay a price that gives a realistic income to all sectors in the production chain.”

Vertical integration throughout the food production chain is one of the main reasons for Moy Park’s success according to David Gibson. Moy Park has almost 400 contract farmers supplying grown birds and eggs to the company and the high level of stockmanship in this farming base is one of the keystones of success in NI. Close business partnerships with key suppliers like Aviagen supplying breeding stock, John Thompsons supplying biosecure feed and many more are fundamental to the business.

Marketing and differentiation of product are vital to food production in Northern Ireland and this year over 50% of Moy Park’s birds in NI will be Premium brand chicken i.e. Free Range, Organic, Waitrose Select or Tesco Willow farm.

Moy Park’s parent company has invested £40 million in the Dungannon factory to create a world class, world scale facility and this has helped to drive down costs and enabled the company to be competitive.

The increased regulatory costs emanating from the EU have also made life more difficult for Moy Park and while they ensure that they operate within these it is frustrating to see other European restrictions playing havoc with their business.

For example, the current approvals process for new GM varieties and their stance on zero tolerance for new unapproved varieties could mean that there will be insufficient soya supplies in Europe. This would spell disaster for the pig and poultry enterprises.

The poultry meat sector has been almost unique in being required by retailers to source non-GM feed at extra cost. The rest of the world has moved ahead to embrace GM technology while Europe has lagged behind. Soon a point will be reached when the supply of non – GM soya will be very difficult to achieve. Science tells us GM technology is safe and there are many benefits such as higher yields, safer herbicides needed, and no- till growing systems which are kinder to the environment. There is danger that we will end up importing food that has been produced using GM technology while our own industry is decimated.

Food labelling is another difficult area with the definition of words like “fresh” meaning many different things to different food companies. Fresh should mean fresh and fresh meat should not be defrosted and sold as fresh – this again supports our locally produced Irish and British produce.

With oil prices at an all time high Northern Ireland must take the lead in alternative sources of energy – projects such as the Rose Energy project can be a major source of "green energy" to NI by converting poultry litter into electricity.