What’s the beef with Greencore?

Minister’s decision to promote Greencore raises a couple of interesting questions

 Minister   for Agriculture Simon Coveney: decision to open Greencore’s new sandwich factory in Rhode Island next week is interesting. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney: decision to open Greencore’s new sandwich factory in Rhode Island next week is interesting. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

The decision of Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to open Greencore’s new sandwich factory in Rhode Island next week is interesting. The Minister’s political opponents will no doubt try and make some thing of the fact that his brother Patrick is the chief executive of Greencore,

Such muck-slinging is part and parcel of what passes for politics here and no doubt is water off a duck’s back to the Coveneys. Leaving all that aside, though, the Minister’s decision to promote Greencore raises a couple of interesting questions.

The obvious one is – why is he opening a sandwich plant on a trip that is supposed to be about promoting the re-entry of Irish beef to the US market. It is unlikely that the factory will be a big buyer of Irish beef.

The answer to this, of course, is that as Minister, Coveney’s brief to is promote and support Irish food companies. This is where it gets interesting, given Greencore’s evolution from an Irish sugar producer to one of the world’s biggest sandwich makers with 22 factories in Britain and the US, but none in Ireland.

The company remains Irish-domiciled but has shifted its listing to London, reports in sterling and caries out almost all of its activities outside of Ireland. As a result, few of its 12,000 employees are Irish.

If you take the simplistic view – as this column often does – that governments should support companies so they create jobs and pay more tax, then Greencore is perhaps not as deserving as others of ministerial love – and Greencore is on a bit of a sticky wicket on the tax front as well.

The group’s Irish corporate tax bill of £5.5 million last year ended up being tax credit of £4.2 million after various adjustments.

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