Kepak Group has informed staff at its Kepak Hacketstown, Co Carlow plant that, as part of an overall examination of its meat division operating structures, it is to undertake a review of the Hacketstown business to examine whether the continuing operations of the site are commercially viable.

According to the company, this examination forms part of a wider group business investment plan with significant new Irish and UK investment planned for the near future.

Some 50 staff are currently employed on the Hacketstown site, which processes carcase lamb only.

Management has confirmed that lamb throughput at the plant has fallen by 50 per cent since 2003 and that over recent times the site has been operating on a two to three day week.

According to the company, despite ongoing efforts to underpin the viability of the site, a continued reduction in throughput volumes coupled with difficult market conditions makes it more difficult to be sufficiently competitive in our key markets.

A management spokesperson confirmed that the review now under way will look at the cost structure, work practice issues and plant efficiencies to ascertain the best way forward for our farmer suppliers, our colleagues who work at the site and for our customer base.

“The cost structure needs to be addressed to make it competitive; the plant is underutilised and we have to take a hard look at whether or not the plant has a viable future as a stand-alone operation” he said.

“Kepak is fully committed to retain its position as a key lamb processor in the Irish market. Kepak Athleague, County Roscommon, is a state-of-the-art vertically integrated lamb slaughtering and cutting facility, which has been heavily invested in recent years and now is the Group’s centre of innovation in lamb processing and it delivers world-class efficiencies and quality product.”

The review, he said, “will be conducted within a matter of weeks, and it would be inappropriate to comment further while the review is under way”.

In 2013 Kepak Group integrated two new sites into its Irish meat manufacturing base at Ballybay County Monaghan, burger production, and in Cavan town, pig processing, and now employs more than 1,700 people in Ireland in seven manufacturing sites and in sales and marketing functions.