Northern Ireland Processor Stops Production
Production of frozen chips has stopped at a farmer-owned food processing plant in Northern Ireland while the company tries to sell the business.
Ballymoney Foods said its business had been undermined by cheap imports of chips from the Netherlands and Belgium.
"As the year has developed a big crop in Europe and processing over-capacity have together resulted in market conditions that have been very difficult for the business."
"Low import prices have resulted in low raw material prices that are untenable for our own growers."
Last year, a group of 40 potato growers from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland paid 50,000 pounds (US$90,000) each to take over the business last year.
Almost half the work force has been laid off and the remaining workers are supplying orders from stock after production was halted.
Ballymoney Foods has a sales target of 300 tons a week but has been moving 200 tons.
North Antrim Assemblyman Ian Paisely Jr. has suggested the area where the plant is to be rezoned from industrial use to housing.
"The future of this chip producing plant is uncertain given the economic climate that surrounds the frozen chip potato sector," he said. "It is unlikely that any purchase will see the ongoing business of frozen chip production being continued in Ballymoney.
"Its closure will have a severe impact on the potato sector generally. As one of the people instrumental in securing the sale of the plant to local farmers, I am concerned tht those who invested in the company should be given every opportunity to recoup that investment.
"I have already written to the Northern Area town planning team about this suggestion."