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Welsh Country Foods Plant at Risk of Closure

15 January 2013

UK - Welsh Country Foodscould be forced to close its lamb processing business on the Island of Anglesey, employing almost 350 people, following the decision by its key customer that it plans to consolidate its fresh lamb business with an alternative supplier.

The company announced to staff last week it was beginning a 90-day consultation exercise with its unions and workers.

Jose Peralta, Managing Director of VION’s red meat business said: “This is an extremely difficult day for everyone at Welsh Country Foods following the decision by its key customer to de-list Welsh Country Foods as a supplier.

"We recognise the impact which this decision will have on the local economy and the community in Anglesey and we are currently in discussions with the retailer to establish if their decision can be overturned and if any steps can be taken to mitigate their decision.

"Throughout the consultation process we will explore every opportunity to limit any potential job losses which will include attracting new customers to the site or the sale of the business to any interested parties. We will also work with our farmer supply base to minimise any impact that this may have on their activities."

The Farmers' Union of Wales attacked the leading supermarket chain for dropping the major Welsh lamb processing plant from its list of suppliers and putting hundreds of jobs under threat.

The union's president Emyr Jones said farmers were extremely concerned that Asda had decided to source its lamb from an alternative supplier.

Mr Jones has written to Asda's chief executive Andy Clarke and the Welsh Government's deputy agriculture minister Alun Davies seeking urgent talks on the situation which "represents a severe blow for the local economy and the 350 members of staff working at the plant".

Mr Jones said the announcement has wide-ranging repercussions for the Welsh food and farming industry as a whole and could have a major knock-on effect on the marketing of Welsh produce by Hybu Cig Cymru due to reduced levy payments in Wales.

He urged the Welsh Government to do all it can to help seek an equitable outcome for the sake of the island of Anglesey and the Welsh food and farming industry as a whole.

Mr Jones has called on Asda to reconsider its decision and seeks a meeting with Mr Clarke to discuss the issue which he will also raise at a pre-planned meeting in Cardiff with Mr Davies on Wednesday.

Anglesey beef and sheep farmer Dafydd Roberts, chairman of the FUW's livestock, wool and marts committee, said: "Welsh Country Foods is the only major processing facility for Welsh lamb in North Wales, handling 640,000 lambs per annum, and any loss of processing will therefore be a blow to the local economy and the community in Anglesey.

"Hopefully, discussions with Asda with lead to a change in their decision but if not then it will be imperative to attract new customers to the site. It is important that a negative impact on jobs and the local economy is minimised."

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 is the major processing facility for Welsh lamb in North Wales, handling 640,000 lambs per annum.

Mr Peralta added: "If the consultation exercise does not reveal a viable way forward for this plant regrettably we will have no other option but to close the site.

"We have today spoken to the workforce at the plant and have opened discussions with union representatives. We have also informed the Welsh Assembly, Welsh Government, and Isle of Anglesey County Council. If the plant closure is confirmed, we will take all practical steps to work with the relevant agencies to minimise the undoubtedly significant impact on jobs and the local economy."

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