Talks to secure a buy-out of the plant, which would have involved a substantial investment by Derby Poultry, a British company, collapsed last week and liquidator Aidan O’Connell said he had no option but to shut down the company.
Union leaders described it as “a devastating blow” for County Waterford, where the plant was a major employer and contributed more than €8m a year to the local economy.
Cappoquin Chickens, which killed 250,000 birds a week, had been in financial trouble for some time, and O’Connell had been appointed examiner/liquidator by the Irish High Court, to try to find a buyer. The court heard the company had an ongoing deficit of more than €800,000, while the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) claimed the company owed producers in west Waterford about €1m.
Competition from cheap imported goods had been a factor in the company’s failure and continued to threaten the €200m Irish poultry industry, claimed IFA president Padraig Walshe. He criticised supermarkets for using discounted chicken from countries such as Brazil and Thailand to entice shoppers, claiming they did not meet the standards of Irish chicken.
“This has devalued a quality-assured product in the minds of customers,” he said. “Offers such as two-for-one put downward pressure on producer margins at a time of rising costs. Supermarkets cannot continue to use food as a loss leader in their pursuit of market share.”
A total of 3.8 million chicken fillets are imported into the Irish Republic each week, making it the largest consumer of chicken per head in the EU. Six Irish poultry plants have been forced to close in the past seven years.
The closures could have been avoided if labelling laws had been introduced, “so that the consumer knew where the product was from and how fresh it was”, claimed Vincent Carton, boss of the country’s leading producer, Manor Farm.