Less options for sheep farmers as Kepak Hacketstown closes

Kepak Group has informed staff at its Hacketstown, Co Carlow lamb abattoir this afternoon that it is to cease operations at the site from 6 March 2014.

The group reviewed a number of options in consultation with the 49 staff but no commercially sustainable solutions were identified, it said in a statement.

“The group regrets that this is the outcome not only for the staff and their families directly employed there but for the entire community of suppliers and associated service providers who have loyally supported the business over the past twenty seven years. The site has been operating on a two to three day week for the past few years and the business lacks sufficient scale to be sustainable longer term.

“The group has seven other primary and secondary processing facilities in Ireland and will be offering alternative processing related employment at these sites to all staff who are willing to relocate.” a spokesperson said. “The group will also offer all its current farmer suppliers in the locality the option to have their lambs processed at its dual species beef and lamb plant at Kepak Athleague, Co Roscommon.”

Last month the group announced that it was undertaking a review to examine the cost structures and the plant and business efficiencies at its Kepak Hacketstown site.

The spokesperson added: “Kepak Group’s commitment to maintaining a progressive presence in all key Irish meat sectors is undiminished. The Group has investments in beef, lamb, pigmeat and convenience meat based food businesses. The Group’s flagship beef and lamb plant at Athleague, Co Roscommon, which has been heavily invested in recent years, will remain a key growth target for the Groups’ lamb activities both for the domestic and export markets.”

Meanwhile the IFA said sheep farmers were very disappointed with the decision to close the Hacketstown plant, with the resulting loss in slaughtering capacity and competition.

IFA Carlow chairman Derek Deane described the closure as a huge disappointment.

“It is very disappointing the announcement by Kepak to close its Hacketstown plant. For farmers in the area there are other options, plants nearby in Irish Country Meats, Kildare Chilling in Kildare town and Ballon Meats in Carlow,” he said.

Deane said the closure will have a big impact sheep farmers in the area. “Kepak is talking about pick-ups but realistically I don’t know how that is going to work or not. More than 225,000 sheep were slaughter at the plant, 190,000 from the immediate area so it affects a lot of sheep farmers in Carlow, Wicklow, Kildare and Wexford. It is very disappointing and we hope that Kepak will review its decision,” he added.

Fine Gael Carlow TD Pat Deering said the closure will significantly affect the local farming community in Carlow. “I am saddened this has come to pass. Some of the 50 employees have been with the company for 20 to 25 years,” he said.

“Going forward the options to consider is that maybe a company could buy the premises. Liffey Meats own the adjourning site and we will be encouraging them to buy the site. We are also exploring the idea of Kepak using the depot as a venue for collection, but that might not be possible because of early lambs are not good with long transportation.”

Deering added that the closure will be raised with Agriculture Minister, Simon Coveney, in the Dail next week.