Cllrs Joe Flaherty and Pat O'Toole and Fianna Fáil party leader, Micheál Martin, are briefed on the challenges facing one of Longford's leading employers and a market leading producer, Kepak
Senior management at the Kepak plant in Ballymahon outlined their concerns in relation to Brexit, Mercoseur, CAP, planning, market access, work permits, competitiveness and public liability, when they met with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin last week.
Yesterday (Tuesday), during the opening day of the National Ploughing Championships at Screggan, Tullamore, the Central Bank of Ireland published new research showing that Brexit and profitability pose risks to those employed in the agri-food sector in the Midlands.
Now one of the foremost food producers in Europe, Kepak is also one of the largest employers in the county with 490 staff following the recent introduction of double shifts at the Ballymahon plant.
The South Longford facility is also the processing base for the firm's high end beef line, John Stone, which can be found in top restaurants here and overseas while the meat is sourced locally from a select number of farmers, including Ballymahon's Enda Connaughton, who accompanied the politicians on the site visit.
Cllr Flaherty said the facility is a hugely important part of the county's economic and employment profile and was one of the best examples of why an agreed Brexit was vital for the food sector generally and specifically Co Longford.
He added: “We cannot understate the impact of a bad Brexit on Co Longford. IBEC have identified that as many as one in four jobs in the county are Brexit exposed and after counties Monaghan and Kerry, we are the county with the largest number of workers in sectors that could be adversely affected by Brexit. Obviously the food sector is facing very real and serious threats.”
Meanwhile, Cllr O'Toole said the Ballymahon community are very fortunate to have an employer of the scale and standing of Kepak.
He said: “This is a company that takes its corporate responsibility very seriously and has led the way in terms of food safety and commitment to the producer. We saw today first hand the challenges the business faces in terms of competitiveness and in that regard the escalating costs of public liability is a major concern for Kepak and many other firms operating in this sector.”