Welsh Country Foods: Management buyout could save abattoir

Dutch food firm Vion is considering the offer

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A management buyout could save jobs at a lamb processing business on Anglesey.

Up to 350 jobs are under threat at Welsh Country Foods in Gaerwen after Asda ended its contract with the firm.

But Gaerwen's site director Eddie Ennis said the parent company, Dutch food firm Vion, is considering the offer.

However, any deal would only safeguard between 50 and 70 jobs as just the slaughterhouse and boning departments would remain open.

However, Mr Ennis said if the site can remain open and functional then the business can possibly be rebuilt.

He said: "I've made a formal offer that's being looked upon in a good way because they would like to support a management buyout."

Strategic review

Mr Ennis said the decision should be made by the end of next week.

He said: "I'm fairly hopeful - we've got lots of support."

Vion plans to close the site unless a buyer can be found by April, when a 90 consultation with staff comes to an end.

Anglesey site history

  • Vion Food Group purchased the plant in August 2008 and runs it as Welsh Country Foods.
  • Before that it was run by the Grampian Country Food Group.
  • Vion announced 200 jobs were to go in January 2010.
  • Jobs were also cut in April 2010.
  • It has abattoirs and processing plants at Merthyr Tydfil, Flintshire, Anglesey and Wrexham.

The Unite union has said it pledged to work "strenuously" to see if a new business plan can be produced to save the threatened jobs.

Asda said the decision was not taken lightly but made after a "strategic review of our lamb business".

Jobs safeguarded

The Welsh government said it had given a "substantial offer of support" to develop the site and the offer could be extended to any potential new owner.

Eindhoven-based food group Vion said supplying Asda represented about 50% of business at its Gaerwen plant.

It handles 640,000 lambs a year.

Vion took over from Grampian Foods in 2008, when the plant employed nearly 600 workers.

Leader of Anglesey council Bryan Owen said a delegation will discuss the future of Welsh Country Foods with Business Minister Edwina Hart next week.

Nearly 3,000 jobs were safeguarded at three poultry and meat processing plants in Wales after a buyout by a meat suppliers last week.

The Birmingham-based 2 Sisters Food Group said the purchase of Vion would help the company meet growing demand.

About 300 jobs in Llangefni, 1,300 in Sandycroft, Flintshire, and 1,300 in Merthyr were safeguarded.

Vion announced in November that it was selling its operations in Britain.

The 2 Sisters Food Group, which is owned by Boparan Holdings Limited (BHL), said the move would secure the future of 11 sites across the UK and the jobs of 6,000 employees, while helping the firm meet growing demand and the allow expansion into the red meat industry.

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