16 May 2000
MF closure talk worries Union
By FWi staff
CLAIMS that the strong Pound could lead to the closure of the Massey Ferguson tractor plant in Coventry have alarmed the National Farmers Union.
Robert Ratliff, chairman of Agco, the US company which makes the world-famous Massey Ferguson tractors, has warned that he may close the plant.
He told the Financial Times that the strong Pound did not favour his companys continued manufacturing presence in the UK.
Sterling is widely blamed for undercutting the UK manufacturing base by sucking in imports and making exports uncompetitive.
Massey Ferguson exports more than 70% of its production and has been under pressure as the Pound has grown in strength over the past three years.
Already the company is seeking European suppliers to partly offset the high Pound.
NFU chief economist Sîon Roberts said the news was “very worrying” and illustrated the difficulties facing any industry which depends on exports.
“This shows how companies exporting into Europe are really suffering.
“People waited a couple of years to see what would happen but are now reaching the stage when they must make big decisions.”
The NFU has recently teamed up with representatives from UK manufacturing to formulate an “alternative economic strategy” to tackle the strong Pound.
NFU president Ben Gill has accused the government of walking away from its responsibility to control the Pound.
He said it was possible to keep inflation under control and reduce the exchange rate.
The group intends to present its strategy to the government by the end of June.
Tractors have been made on the Massey Ferguson site since 1946 and 1800 people are currently employed there.
In 1999 the plant, has a capacity to make 25,000 tractors a year, produced almost 14,000 machines.