Northern Ireland firm Moy Park is to cease processing live birds at its Co. Antrim plant due to "challenging market conditions", it has been announced.

The decision will be to close production at the site temporarily with the view to resuming processing next year, according to Moy Park, which is the largest, private sector business in Northern Ireland.

Confirming the news to AgriLand, a spokesperson for Moy Park said:

“Moy Park is proposing to temporarily cease processing live birds at Ballymena due to challenging market conditions, with the view that we will re-open the line in January 2020.

In line with this it is proposed the North Antrim Hatchery will temporarily cease hatching until November 2019.

"We will continue to cut, further process and pack at Ballymena, including retail production of our BBQ products," the representative for the firm added.

“We are currently working with our colleagues and their representatives doing our utmost to minimise the impact of this proposal on our excellent workforce, including offering temporary transfers to other shifts and roles.

“We will also be working closely with our farming partners throughout the process to manage this temporary reduction in poultry requirement,” the company spokesperson concluded.

The firm operates 12 processing and manufacturing units in Northern Ireland, England, France and the Netherlands.