20 January 2000
Shake-up intensifies in meat sector

by Simon Wragg

A RESCUE deal has been announced for the Midlands lamb plant which closed two weeks ago. But another processor has suspended its operations.

The Anglesey-based Cigmon Group has stepped in with an unconfirmed bid of 1m to reopen ABPs Wellingborough plant which closed a fortnight ago.

The 10,000 lambs/week abattoir has now restarted its kill lines with contract fieldsmen looking to secure many of the plants previous suppliers.

New owners Owen and Iona Owen said capacity would be geared to the export of whole carcasses until refurbishment of the boning hall is complete.

It is expected to take over ABPs contract to supply up to 3000 lambs a week to the Macquet retail packing group, France.

But the number of processors selling to overseas customers is partly blamed in Midland Meat Packers decision to closed its Bromsgrove kill line this week.

Able to process up to 4000 lambs a week, the site has suffered since losing its contract to handle cattle from the over thirty months scheme from January 1.

“Theres far too much over-capacity, said Richard Field, MMPs chief executive. We will [now] concentrate on retail packing at Bromsgrove.

Such turbulence in the market will continue as abattoirs face up to the problem of over-capacity, predicted Peter Scott of the British Meat Federation.

“We have 450 abattoirs on the books, but some people are talking about the possibility of as few as 50 major abattoirs in future.”

The long-awaited rise in cattle and sheep prices may be helping producers, but it is adding to processors ills, he added.

“Retailers stung by the charges of rip-off Britian are looking to cut their supply base.”

But competition between abattoir owners – with some ironically looking to expand their way out of the problem – will do little to rectify the situation.

Producers can expect major changes before long, Mr Scott concluded.