HiBreeds International Ltd
HiBreeds International Ltd was formed in 1998 and exports fertile chicken hatching eggs to a wide variety of customers in Saudi Arabia. It exports 80 million eggs per year and has a £20 million turnover. In 2011, the company gained their first Queen’s Award for International Trade for outstanding achievement, an award they would go on to receive two more times. In 2013 they were named Exporter of the Year for the East of England in the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) Chamber Awards and in 2014 they received an Award for Excellence from Saudi Arabia Airlines.
Managing Director Nick Chandler knows Saudi Arabia well, and it was this experience of the region that led him to set up the company, which his business graduate daughter Laura then joined. “It was a very interesting set of circumstances that started us thinking that Saudi Arabia would be a good place to do business,” he explains.
“In the UK, hatcheries cut back output for six to eight weeks prior to Christmas, creating a surplus in the Autumn. We noticed that this surplus coincided with Muslim religious festivals where they needed to provide a lot of food, including chicken. So, we thought, why not meet their needs by providing them with our surplus? The high quality of HiBreeds British-bred chicken proved a success and they wanted us to supply them every month, and so the relationship was born.”
But it took a great deal of time to cultivate strong working partnerships in Saudi Arabia. “It was hard work to establish our reputation and gain trust,” says Nick. “We are dealing with livestock here, a very delicate and sophisticated product, therefore doing business with us requires a huge commitment from customers, especially a financial one, because of feed costs, mortality rates etc. The egg is the pinnacle of the food chain, so if the quality isn’t spot on it affects the whole process. We pride ourselves on superb bio security and breed quality.”
HiBreeds contracts farmers in Northern Ireland to produce the eggs. Nick says: “Northern Ireland is the safest place to source eggs because the virus and disease levels are kept to a minimum by the prevailing winds, and it’s not on the migratory bird path. Hi Breeds also has long term partnerships with Dutch farmers and sources production from isolated areas in the north of the country.”
HiBreeds believes the future markets will be in Africa and deputy managing Director Laura Chandler has made the development of the business and the freight links the company’s next big objective.
Laura is responsible for all the export coordination at HiBreeds International.
The export of live fertile hatching eggs is quite complex and involves a great deal of documentation. She says: “We have recently come back to using the Norfolk Chamber to do our EC Certificates of Origin. Previously we were using Arab Certificates, which the Chamber couldn’t handle, so things are a bit easier now.
“The paper trail is a very long process. Documents are couriered from Northern Ireland to our offices, we then produce the certificates of origin and take them down to the Chamber to be stamped, we then make a copy and post the original to Saudi airlines to accompany the shipment. It all takes a long time, and because we have livestock to ship, quick turnaround is essential. The Chamber provides a while-you-wait service, which is vital for us. They are friendly, efficient and professional and we rely heavily on their service.”
Nick has to face challenges, like any other businessman. “The competition is quite fierce in this industry, especially from Europe, the US and lately India,” he says. “But we tackle that by ensuring our eggs are of the highest quality and keeping our prices competitive and maintaining our reputation.
“Exchange rates are also quite complex. We are handling a great deal of finance, so we need to be on top of the money markets. Earlier this year we got an exchange rate calculation wrong and as a result incurred a £60k loss. We clawed it back by selling in Euros instead of Sterling, but it’s so easy to get it wrong – we really have to be on the ball.”
Transporting such a delicate cargo as eggs has to be reliable and fast. “The eggs are taken form each farm to a packing centre, where they are boxed up and forwarded to Heathrow,” says Nick “We have a special partnership with Saudi Arabian Airlines – in fact we are one of their largest customers. Transportation by air is the only reliable and fast method for us to ensure the eggs arrive in peak condition.”
Laura Chandler has some advice for anyone considering exporting for the first time: “Make sure you use a irrevocable Letter of Credit confirmed by a UK bank. It’s the most reliable method of getting your money.
“Also, make good use of the Chamber, they know their stuff, they are full of good advice and their service is fast and trouble-free. We have also started to attend some of their networking events, so we are using them more and more.”