19 May 2000

Strong £ threat to MFs tractor site in Coventry

MASSEY Ferguson has warned that the strong £ is putting its tractor plant in Coventry under threat.

Robert Ratliff, chairman of US parent company Agco, said this week that the strength of sterling did not favour manufacturing in the UK.

Massey Ferguson exports more than 70% of its production, mostly to mainland Europe. It has been under mounting pressure from unfavourable exchange rates, prompting it to seek suppliers from the Continent to help offset the effect. But that policy could affect UK jobs, and is not seen as a long-term solution.

"A year ago the government suggested it would embrace the k within two years; 12 months later, we have still not heard anything," said Mr Ratliff. The firm could ride out a further year, he added. "We need to hear encouraging signs about joining the single currency."

NFU chief economist Siôn Roberts said the news was "very worrying" and illustrated the difficulties facing any export-dependant industry. "This shows how companies exporting into Europe are suffering. People waited a couple of years to see what would happen but are now reaching the stage when they must make big decisions."

Tractors have been made on the Massey Ferguson site since 1946 and it employs 1800 people. In 1999 the plant, which has a capacity to make 25,000 tractors a year, made just under 14,000 machines. &#42