MORE than 500 people attended a most impressive occasion at the York Road mill of Associated Feed Manufacturers Limited in Belfast on Friday.
A new specialised bulk delivery plant costing nearly £150,000 was officially opened by the Prime Minister.
Captain O’Neill got a terrific reception as he rose to speak and unveil a commemorative plaque.
He was accompanied on the platform by Lord Cole, chairman of Unilever Limited; Major J D Chichester Clark, Minister of Agriculture; Mr P A Macrory, a director of Unilever; and Mr C A C de Boinville, chairman of Unilever Animal Feeds Group.
Extending a welcome to the Prime Minister and the other guests, Mr S G Saint, managing director, recalled that it was eight years almost to the day since Captain O’Neill officially opened the mill.
Mr Saint said that the last five years had been adverse conditions for some forms of livestock production, although there had been overall a small expansion of the feeding stuffs market. At the same time, competition had been intensified in numerous ways.
“As a result of this strongly competitive situation we had to intensify our drive to achieve maximum production efficiency and at the same time, provide a first class service to our customers,” he said.
The keen competition that exists for farmers’ business, meant that AFM had to provide the best possible service. The growth of bulk delivery to the farm was a fine example of improving service.
In the spring of 1965, they were delivering to bulk lorries an average of 25 tons per week. Today more than a quarter of all production was delivered in bulk – an increase of several thousand per cent.
“When demand for a service grows at such a phenomenal rate as this, it is imperative for us to provide the appropriate means to meet our customers’ requirements,” declared Mr Saint.
The building took only 10 months to erect, and he thanked the consultants and contractors for their co-operation and quick results.
Captain O’Neill, in the course of his speech, said it was nowadays rather old fashioned to think of agriculture as fields and farm buildings, crops and animals. Modern agriculture was rather a complex of industries centred around the land, from the suppliers of the input to the processors of the output.
“For us in Ulster, with our marked emphasis upon livestock production, nothing could be more important than a well regulated supply of animal feeding stuffs,” he went on.
“It is our misfortune in Northern Ireland that we cannot hope to provide more than a small part of the content of our feedings stuffs, and in the post devaluation period our farmers here have had to bear the increased costs of imported materials.
It is good to know that this mill makes use of locally produced materials – home grown cereals, fish and meat meals, milk powders and so on – wherever possible.”
He said the other major economic importance of AFM was an employer of labour in Belfast. They provided jobs for 330 people, mostly men, working on a continuous three shift system.
AFM was, of course, connected with the Unilever Group and they could be proud that a very distinguished Ulsterman, Patrick Macrory – a man who had given great service to his native Province as a member of the Development Council and in other ways is a director of that great concern.