UK – Northern Ireland-based poultry meat producer Moy Park has decided to downsize operations at the Ashbourne plant rather than close the site.

Part of the downsizing of the business includes reducing the workforce from around 860 to 175 at the site.

The poultry processing firm announced in September its plans of closing the factory in Blenheim Road, Ashbourne, putting up to 935 jobs at risk across all departments linked to the site.

The company had planned to shift the production operation of the proposed closed site to chicken plants in Ballymena, Northern Ireland, and Anwick in Lincolnshire.

The “proposed” measure follows what Moy Park, one of the largest poultry processors in the UK, termed a strategic review, with the company suggesting the plans are related to the difficult cost-of-living trading environment.

The GMB, a general trade union in the United Kingdom that has more than 460,000 members, welcomed the news saying the move comes after weeks of negotiations and campaigning requesting the manufacturer to re-consider closing the facility near Ashbourne, with the potential loss of hundreds of local jobs.

Mick Coppin from the GMB said: “I have to give credit where it’s due – the business, they have reconsidered things, bought in experts and found a way with a significant investment of actually keeping this site viable and therefore the long-term, permanent jobs.”

Moy Park said its new focus will be on purely business-to-business sales and bosses have confirmed the site’s popular factory shop will be closed as part of the downsizing.

A Moy Park spokesperson said: “We can reshape our Ashbourne facility to be a business-to-business supplier, saving the site from closure. While the site will be downsized, it will eventually save 175 jobs.”

“This move will ensure we have a strong security of supply for future opportunities and provide contingency options. We are supporting the employees at the site and in our supply chain who have been affected by the restructuring of the factory.”

The new move comes after the company reported a sharp drop in profits by 58.1% (or £50m) to £36.2m in the face of significant cost increases in feed, utilities, and labor.

In August, the company, which employs almost 10,000 people across its 12 manufacturing sites in Northern Ireland, England, France, and the Netherlands, reported it made £30m (US$31.23m) on sales of £1.6bn (US$1.67bn) compared to a 2020 profit of £76m (US$79.12m) on sales of £1.5bn (US$1.56bn).

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