One of the UK’s largest food businesses has announced plans to close its Abergavenny factory by the autumn putting 400 jobs at risk. Avara Foods, which supplies chicken and turkey to UK supermarkets and restaurant chains, blamed rising costs following the Covid-19 pandemic and falling demand for UK-produced turkey for the decision.
The Welsh Government has said the announcement comes as a "major blow" for workers and the community.
In a statement, Avara Foods said: “Since the Covid pandemic, Avara has faced significant inflationary pressure in fuel, commodities and labour, which has driven up pricing and significantly reduced demand for UK-produced turkey in the retail market.
“To maintain a competitive customer offer, Avara has started to reengineer its turkey business to operate a more efficient operational footprint focused on fewer, better invested facilities.”
The firm said it had looked in depth at a range of options to enable its wider business to compete effectively in the market in the future, including different uses for the Monmouthshire factory.
"Regretfully, this process identified that volumes could be processed more efficiently in other operations and with lower capital investment. This has resulted in the proposal to close the Abergavenny site."
“This difficult decision has not been taken lightly and in no way reflects on the hard-working colleagues.”
“In the coming days Avara will begin a collective consultation process with the individuals that are affected by this proposal. The nature of this consultation means that no final decisions have been made and there will be no speculation as to how the process will conclude.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We are aware of Avara’s announcement, which will come as a major blow for workers and the community. We are in touch with the business to explore options and stand ready to support those impacted by the news.”
Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Finance Peter Fox MS, Said: "It is worrying news to read this morning that the Avara Foods plant at Abergavenny in Monmouthshire is closing one of their factories. The potential job losses will have a considerable impact on the local economy and the lives of the workers and their families.
“I feel for the workers who are living in limbo, waiting for news about whether their jobs are safe. This is another huge blow for the area, with Tillery foods entering administration last week, I can only hope that this is not a sign of future job losses in the area.
Mr Fox added: “In light of this distressing news, I have submitted a topical question in the Senedd to ensure Labour Ministers outline what urgent action is being taken to support those impacted.”
Headquartered in Brackley, Avara Foods has eight other processing sites across the English border including in Telford, Dudley, Market Rasen, Hereford and Newent Gloucestershire.
It was set up in 2018 as a joint venture between US agri-food giant Cargill and UK group Faccenda Foods. In 2012, the Abergavenny factory was part of an acquisition of turkey processor Cranberry Foods by Faccenda.
Earlier this year, the company cited global cost increases in feed, fuel and utilities in its company accounts for the year end 31 May 2022. While turnover grew by 5.8% to £1.26m in 2022 (up from £1.19m in 2021), the company saw its operating profit drop from £23m in 2021 to £21.3m in 2022.
It follows the recent closure of poultry giant 2 Sisters’ Llangefni factory on Anglesey, citing concerns over high production costs. While Abertillery-based Tillery Valley Foods went into administration last week with the loss of nearly 230 jobs also blaming inflationary pressures with spiralling food and energy costs impacting cashflows.
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