UK: Lamb abattoir in Wales closes today with loss of 300 jobs

ritual-and-animal-welfareWelsh Country Foods (WCF) has today announced that its lamb processing business on the Island of Anglesey will close with immediate effect, with 310 people expected to be out of work.

The news comes following the completion of a 90-day consultation exercise with unions and workers which began in January. A bid to find a buyer for the meat plant failed.

The Gaerwen site was one of two on Anglesey owned by Vion. But a buyer was found for the sister poultry plant at Llangefni, safeguarding some 300 posts there. It was bought in March by the Birmingham-based 2 Sisters Food Group, along with sites at Sandycroft in Flintshire, where 1,300 people are employed, and at Merthyr Tydfil where another 1,300 jobs were saved.

The move to close the plant was taken following the decision by its key customer, ASDA, to move its fresh lamb business to an alternative supplier. Eddie Ennis, site director at Welsh Country Foods, said: “This is a very sad day for all those involved at WCF. We have explored every possible avenue to avoid having to take this extremely regrettable action but, unfortunately, we have been unable to identify any viable alternative to closure of the plant.

“We have had extensive discussions with a number of parties who expressed interest in buying the plant but regrettably no agreement could be reached with these parties whereby the site can continue operations on an ongoing basis.

NFU Cymru President Ed Bailey commented, “This is a body blow to lamb producers across Wales and to employment on the island of Anglesey and Gwynedd. The loss of one of the biggest slaughterhouses in Wales bodes badly for an industry already suffering from low prices and increased costs. Competition for lambs is important as is the mix of large medium and small abattoirs in Wales to meet various markets for sheep meat in Wales the UK and Europe. Loss of Gaerwen abattoir capacity will significantly affect this balance and ability to supply various markets with a quality Welsh product.”

The union said it is still encouraging Vion, the Welsh Government and the Anglesey Council to do ‘everything in their power to continue to seek a buyer for this strategically important site.’

The plant was purchased by VION Food Group in August 2008 when it acquired the Grampian Country Food Group and forms part of the Group’s red meat activities. Welsh Country Foods employs 310 staff and has been the major processing facility for Welsh lamb in North Wales, handling 640,000 lambs per annum.

VION announced in November that it was selling its UK food operations, employing in total 13,000 people at 38 sites, to focus on its core food activities in the Netherlands and Germany and its global ingredients business.

Eddie Ennis continued: “With closure of the plant now confirmed, we will be working closely with the relevant local agencies to identify ways to minimise the undoubtedly significant impact on jobs and the local economy.”