The ARGO Group has announced proposals to close its Doncaster plant with the loss of 350 jobs and transfer production of McCormick tractors to its assembly plants in Italy.

The company says the plan follows a challenging financial period for the UK plant, with demand for agricultural tractors and machinery in recent years adversely affected by a number of factors in major markets around the world.

ARGO has concluded that significant restructuring of the McCormick business is needed to improve cost-efficiency given that market conditions show no signs of improvement.

Alberto Negri, general manager of McCormick Tractors International Ltd, said: “The traditional agricultural market in which we operate has, generally, been in decline for a number of years and the outlook for next year and beyond shows no sign of significant improvement.

“It is important for McCormick to structure its business accordingly to ensure that the McCormick name continues to perform and grow in the global marketplace.”

ARGO acquired the Doncaster facility and product range in January 2001 to re-introduce the McCormick name.

In subsequent years, the acquired product lines were developed and improved and new ones added, including the award-winning McCormick XTX and ZTX high-horsepower tractors. In 2004, McCormick became the fourth best-selling tractor brand in Britain.

The proposals, put to the plant’s trade unions and employee representatives for consultation, call for assembly operations and all major support functions to be transferred to group factories in Italy, where the McCormick line will benefit from significant economies of scale.

McCormick in the UK would become a sales, marketing and distribution branch, along the lines of the subsidiaries performing these functions in other markets around the world.

A service parts operation would be maintained in the UK to ensure fast availability of parts for current and future McCormick products as well as their predecessors.