East Anglia: Bernard Matthews to step up investment despite loss

BERNARD Matthews Farms says it is to invest an extra �10million in its UK business this year, as it aims to fight back from a period of heavy losses.

The East Anglian-based poultry firm is to post an operating loss of �6.6m for the 18 months to July 3, 2011, in accounts to be filed on Friday.

A combination of high feed costs, adverse weather and economic problems in Hungary is blamed for the loss, which compares with a �2.5m profit for the year ending January 2010.

The figures for the 18-month period will show group sales of �470.8m, compared with �330.5m for the previous 12 months.

Bernard Matthews has moved its accounting year-end to July in a move it said would help it to plan and budget with its Christmas performance results.

Managing director Rob Mears said that, besides high feed costs in 2010, the company had been hit by the cold weather towards the end of the year which meant its turkeys needed more heat and food at a time when they were putting on the most weight.

Bernard Matthews’ subsidiary company in Hungary was also hit by the devaluation of the currency and VAT increase on food in the country, he added.

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However, Mr Mears said Christmas 2011 had been “outstanding” and the company had started work on a �3m expansion to its Great Witchingham Southside facilities to help meet increased demand.

Its plans also included a �4m investment at its Holton site near Halesworth, where it hopes to get planning permission for an anerobic digestion green energy plant.

The company is also expecting to start looking for new farms to add to its existing 50 across Norfolk, Suffolk and Lincolnshire.

Mr Mears added: “We already know we are going to need to produce another 400,000 frozen whole birds this Christmas. Demand is strong and we’ve been successful in gaining commitments to sell more birds. We are investing for the future here.”

And he said that the company’s 2,100 year-round UK staff, who are joined by around 800 temporary workers each Christmas, could look forward with a fair degree of optimism for the future.