NI firm: Brexit can be boost for home-grown producers

Jack Hamilton has concerns over the status of his firm's EU workers
Jack Hamilton has concerns over the status of his firm's EU workers

Farmers stand to benefit from Brexit as retailers turn to home-grown produce, according to a Northern Irish food firm.

However, Jack Hamilton, a director of pre-pack vegetable business Mash Direct, said that about a third of their workforce are overseas nationals, and that concerns over the status of EU workers continue to linger.

He told the Press Association that UK farmers “absolutely” stand to benefit after the June 23 vote, which has cut the value of the pound and put the cost of imports up.

“In the UK we still import a lot of our vegetables, which is crazy when we produce such high-quality vegetables here,” he said.

“With Brexit, it’s making people question things a lot more than they used to and all of that is a positive if you’re a UK farmer.

“If you’re producing the stuff here, you can really go out and really shout about it, and people want to listen...

“Certainly ‘brand Britain’ is a much bigger deal than it was 12 months ago.”

The Northern Ireland-based firm grows and packs ready-cook veg including mashed potatoes, red cabbage and beetroot, cauliflower cheese and seasonal Brussels sprouts from its farms in Co Down.

Mr Hamilton expects full-year revenues to have reached £15 million once annual accounts close in February, up from £14.2 million last year and £12.4 million in 2014.

But Mash Direct is one of a number of farms that may have to grapple with employee shortages if EU nationals lose their right to work in the UK as a result of Brexit.

Nearly a third of the company’s 180-strong workforce are foreign nationals.