The future for almost 300 workers at McIntosh Donald in Portlethen is uncertain after Dutch food producer and owner of the red meat plant, VION NV, announced on Monday they are to sell all UK food businesses.
Around 13,000 workers in the UK could be affected by the sale and if no buyer is found the closure of McIntosh Donald could have a damaging effect on many Scottish farmers who currently send their livestock to the meat plant.
VION NV announced that they will be selling their UK food businesses to concentrate on their core markets in the Netherlands and Germany.
VION’s CEO and executive board chairman Dirk Kloosterboer said: “The decisions we have made have not been easy ones, but they are essential. We are returning VION Food to its core pork and beef activities in the Netherlands and Germany, whilst VION Ingredients will continue to develop globally.
“The divestments, of which our British food activities constitute by far the largest part, will be implemented carefully. These are steps in a challenging programme to get our food activities back to the desired returns, but I am fully confident that, with the hard work and support of all our people, we will once again ensure VION’s strong position in our chosen markets.”
McIntosh Donald employs many workers from the local area and employees the “Leader” spoke to were keeping their fingers crossed and remaining optimistic that a buyer will be found.
However uncertainty remains with farmers who have to plan ahead with regard to livestock and feel uneasy about whether the slaughterhouse will be there in six months when their animals are ready.
North Kincardine Councillor Alison Evison responded with concern to the news saying on Monday saying: “The McIntosh Donald red meat plant at Portlethen employs about 280 staff. Many Scottish farmers send their cattle to it.
“The announcement brings uncertainty to many local people at a time of year when lots of families are looking to spend a bit more. I hope that the site can be sold quickly as a successful business. It plays an important part in the local economy.”
Aberdeen South and North Kincardine MSP Maureen Watt also expressed her concern: “This is an extremely disappointing announcement which will undoubtedly raise serious concerns amongst the 280 workers at McIntosh Donald.
“It is a particularly frustrating announcement given that the Scottish Government has repeatedly asked VION for assurances over the futures of its other premises in Scotland, following the closure of Halls of Broxburn. After VION made clear that it was to close Halls I met with management at McIntosh Donald who appeared to have no knowledge of VION’s intentions.
“It therefore seems that it was not only the Scottish Government which was kept in the dark, but also management at VIONS Scottish operations.”
Sir Robert Smith, Liberal Democrat MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine called on VION to do all it can to find buyers for its UK businesses: “The first priority must be to find a buyer for all its UK plants including the McIntosh Donald meat processing plant in Portlethen. Not only are there hundreds of jobs at stake in Portlethen and thousands of jobs across the UK but farmers and suppliers across Scotland will be concerned about their access to food retailers.”
Sir Robert has contacted the company to see what assistance they need to ensure the plant is sold as a going concern. A VION spokesperson said on Tuesday that the sales process has started and things will be progressing in terms of a sale.