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Grampian Country Food Group's pork factory at Buckie

There was growing uncertainty over the future of one of Moray's biggest private-sector employers last night after it confirmed a wide-ranging review of its operations.

Speculation has been mounting for months that jobs could go at the Grampian Country Food Group's pork factory at Buckie, which employs about 300 people.

Fears have been expressed that the factory could close altogether and production be transferred elsewhere.

The concern comes while the area is still reeling from the announcement that 900 service personnel and civilians are to be axed from RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Kinloss over the next two years.

The pork factory in Great Western Road is easily the biggest employer in a town where the traditional industries of fishing and boatbuilding are just a shadow of what they were a few years ago.

Pessimism about the factory's future deepened yesterday after Moray MP Angus Robertson failed to win any assurances from company bosses during a meeting he had requested as a result of the persistent rumours circulating in the town.

They told him that a review of the company's pork- processing operations was ongoing and that no decisions had been made.

Mr Robertson said the discussion had been constructive but he had left without any assurances about the future of the Buckie factory or its workforce.

"It is clear that the future of the factory is under review and an announcement is expected within weeks," he said.

"I made it clear in the discussions that the plant is an important employer in an area recently hit by major Ministry of Defence job cuts.

"The north of Scotland is the heartland area of the company and it would seem very odd that there would by any movement away from the region."

Mr Robertson said the company officials he had met were keen to discuss the competitive nature of the food sector and the challenges facing the industry, which were undoubtedly significant.

"Nevertheless, I hope in the time that remains before any final decision and announcement about the future of the Buckie pork factory that the company closely examines the potential impact of any negative decision."

Earlier this year, the Grampian Country Food Group, Britain's biggest independently owned meat processor, announced a 44% drop in pre-tax profits, from 21.4million to 12million.

It blamed strong competition from rivals, consolidation among retailers and higher consumer expectations in terms of convenience and product quality.


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