Factory closure to cost 200 jobs

CONCERNS were last night voiced for the future of the region's livestock industry following the proposed closure of a poultry factory and the loss of nearly 200 jobs.

CONCERNS were last night voiced for the future of the region's livestock industry following the proposed closure of a poultry factory and the loss of nearly 200 jobs.

The Moy Park plant in Bury St Edmunds is to close with production transferred to a larger factory in Lincolnshire. It is the latest meat processing plant to close in the past two years at a cost of about 900 jobs.

In 2006, Grampian closed its pork factory at Elmswell with the loss of nearly 400 jobs. And then last year, Grampian closed its poultry factory at Attleborough in neighbouring Norfolk with the loss of a further 300 jobs.

The National Farmers' Union last night voiced its concerns about the future of livestock infrastructure in the region.

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NFU eastern region spokesman Brian Finnerty said: “First of all there is concern with jobs being lost in a rural part of Suffolk. We do want to hold onto our livestock infrastructure. It is important we've got the farmers but we also need that infrastructure.”

But he added the closure of Moy Park was always “likely to happen” because of the company's £30million investment in its Lincolnshire factory.

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A total of 188 people are employed at Moy Park in Mildenhall Road, Bury, and negotiations are now underway.

The company blamed the increasing price of wheat - crucial for poultry feed - for the decision to close the plant, together with the need to achieve better economies of scale at its larger factory.

A spokesman for the company said: “The Bury site came under Moy Park's ownership in 2004 and had the market been stronger for whole, locally reared chicken, then today's announcement might have been different.

“The main growth sector for chicken sales is swayed in favour more for portions than whole birds and, consequently, Moy Park has invested close to £30m in another far larger facility in Lincolnshire - said in 2007 to be the single largest such investment in the British food and agriculture sector for some years.”

A spokesman for Unite, the union representing workers at the factory, said news of the possible closure of the Bury St. Edmunds site had come as a shock.

“Around 200 jobs rely on the Bury operation so the news is of great concern,” he said. “Union officials will be meeting the company on Monday and we'll obviously listen to what they have to say.”

Robert Gooch, who runs the Wild Meat Company in Woodbridge, said his firm was lucky as his animals were wild game and hence did not need feed. But he added: “I do know there is a problem out there because of the price of poultry and pig have not gone up but the price of feed certainly has.”

Tony Stanton, managing director of Direct Table Foods, which has a plant in Saxham Business Park, Bury, said: “It's going to get very difficult. We are already dealing with increased costs in raw material, packaging, fuel and labour. We are perhaps fortunate that our new factory is purpose-built and energy efficient and we continuously check on our efficiencies and aim to keep customer costs down. However, in the present economic climate, it is inevitable that there will be a rise in the price of pork products.”

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