Foot and mouth hits under pressure food processor

Foot and mouth has hit the one bright spot in the continuing woes of under-pressure food processor Grampian Country Food Group.

The closure of slaughter lines at all pig, beef and lamb processing plants this week will be a further blow to the beleaguered group.

But company spokesman Alasdair Cox said no lay-offs had taken place as of Tuesday (7 August) and the company hoped a full slaughter programme could be re-started by the end of the week.

Ample stocks were in store to allow further processing to continue meantime, he added.

First Minister, Alex Salmond, visited the plant on Monday to meet managers and staff.

The Scottish-based group, which supplies chicken, pork, beef and lamb to supermarkets from more than 20 processing plants throughout the UK, racked up record pre-tax losses of £40.5m in the year to May 2006.

But accounts for individual companies within the group, which have only just been filed at Companies House, show that Cornwall-based beef and lamb processor, St Merryn Meat, increased profits from £1.68m to £10.7m on a turnover of £361m.

Aberdeen-based, McIntosh Donald, also saw profits rise from £3.8m to £5.3m on a £78.3m turnover. Profits were boosted by a £2.4m property sale. Both companies are major suppliers of beef and lamb to Tesco.

Losses at Sovereign Food Group, manufacturers of convenience foods, soared from £6.4m to £8.2m on a turnover which fell by a third to £30.6m, while chicken processor, Thorne Poultry, suffered a £4.5m loss against a profit of £639,000 the previous year. Turnover fell by £4m to £52.6m.

The company’s pig processing businesses fared no better, with Grampian Country Pork Suffolk recording an £8.4m fall, from a pre-tax profit of £2.1m in 2005 to a loss of £6.3m last year. Turnover was up £7.5m at £110m.

This follows a £15.6m loss reported earlier at Edinburgh-based Grampian Country Pork Halls.

Group managing director, Eddie Power, appointed in January, 2006, with a remit to stem spiralling losses, said the year to May, 2006, was the most difficult in the history of the group but a trading profit had been achieved in the year to May, 2007.

The last year has seen the closure of nine plants and the loss of 3000 jobs. The closure of the Group’s first chicken plant at Banff, NE Scotland, later this year has been announced in the past week with the loss of a further 180 jobs on top of 80 jobs lost last year.

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