Northern Irish suppliers are gearing up for a double whammy caused by changes to industrial rates regulations and the growing fear of a price war between the leading multiples.
Industrial properties in the UK were made exempt from rates in 1929 to help protect manufacturing companies from foreign competition. However, Northern Ireland is the only area where this law still applies.
The government is phasing it out over a seven-year period which kicked off last year when companies faced a bill for 15% of the rateable value of their properties. This year it will go up to 25%. Suppliers claim this will put undue pressure on margins.
Michael Bell, executive director of the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association, said: “This will put intense pressure on suppliers as they face significant rises in the costs of running their business.”
There is also growing speculation in the province of an imminent price war between Asda and Tesco as Asda seeks to challenge Tesco’s dominance.