12 January 1996

Irish expand inroads into UK food

IRISH companies are taking an increasing slice of the GBs food and agri-business sectors as the Dublin government steps up its drive for more exports.

The big expansion, according to a report commissioned by the Irish Farmers Journal, has occured in the last five years, even though exports have expanded steadily since the 1960s.

In the dairy sector, it is estimated that Irish subsidiaries control 18% of the milk market, with Waterford Foods now the fourth largest UK operator following its 1995 takeover of The Cheese Company. Avonmore has a similar market share.

In the meat sector, companies such as AIBP, Kepak and Dawn hold a 30% stake. Anglo Beef Processors is GBs largest slaughterer with a £300m turnover, while Kepak improved its position last year with the purchase of British Beef from Union International.

On the farm requisites side, IAWS has led the charge, starting off with Sherriffs in the late 1980s, then concentrating on the blended fertiliser and fishmeal sectors, where it controls 25% and 50% respectively.

Masstock International has also also built up a significant share of the agro-chemicals market with 17 acquisitions in the last eight years, including Cleanacres.

As the Irish look to overtake the French as the number one food exporter to the UK, over £17m of government funds is being allocated to food marketing in the next five years.