Vion announces UK sell-off leading to job fears

A food group which employs over 3,300 meat and poultry processing workers in Wales says it is selling all its operations in Britain.

The Dutch company Vion runs abattoirs and processing plants at Merthyr Tydfil, Flintshire, Anglesey and Wrexham.

It employs 13,000 at 38 UK sites. Vion said it is confident it will sell its UK sites as viable businesses.

The Welsh government said it would work to help any buyers of the sites.

As well as workers, unions said the plans could hit farmers.

NFU Cymru president Ed Bailey said: "Whilst these are uncertain times for Welsh farmers supplying the company our thoughts also go out to the significant number of Vion employees working in Wales who I am sure have concerns over what impact this news will have on their future employment."

Vion supplies beef, lamb, pork and chicken products to the food retailing, food manufacturing and food service sectors.

'Progressing well'

The St Merryn plant in Merthyr Tydfil is the largest single meat processing and packing plant in the UK, according to Vion which described its decision to sell as not easy but essential.

The plant 1,300 employees at Merthyr Tydfil along with another 1,300 Sandycroft in Flintshire.

At Anglesey there are 336 staff at Llangfeni and 377 at Gaerwen.

The company has already announced the closure of a Scottish meat processing plant with the loss of 1,700 jobs.

The company said the sale of its UK businesses would allow it to focus on "core markets" in the Netherlands and Germany and develop its "global ingredients business".

Dafydd Roberts, chair of the livestock committee for the Farmers Union of Wales (FUW), said: "It's very bad news that they are having to sell up.

"They are a very big company and we are very dependant on them."

Peter Barr, chairman of Vion UK, said: "Working with our advisers Rabobank/Rothschild, we have already started detailed discussions with a number of interested parties, including management, regarding the acquisition of the various parts of the UK business and these are progressing well.

"The level of interest in the businesses has been strong and we hope to be in a position in the near future to give further details about the progress which has been made."

Jamie Pritchard, from Unite, said: "We are disappointed that our members had to find out from the national press that we were being put up for sale as we have on numerous occasions asked for talks regarding the future plans of Welsh Country Foods.

"We are seeking urgent talks with Vion both locally and nationally to seek clarity on our jobs. As a major employer on Anglesey it is imperative that we retain jobs on the island."

Last month, Vion announced that it had agreed the sale of its US-based Banner Pharmacaps, a manufacturer and developer of soft gel caps for the pharmaceutical industry.

A Welsh government spokesperson said it would work with any prospective new buyers for the sites.

"Whilst the company has announced it's intention to leave the UK market - and sell its operations in Wales, they have confirmed that the interests of employees at the affected sites will be of the utmost importance," they said.

"We have been working very closely with the company and we will work with prospective new buyers to offer any assistance as appropriate from the Welsh government to secure the viability and future of the sites in Wales."

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