bernard matthews

The turkey giant is seeking to close its Great Witchingham site, which was found to longer be ‘a sustainable operation’

Bernard Matthews has unveiled proposals to close its loss-making Great Witchingham factory in Norfolk, with the potential loss of 600 jobs.

The turkey giant announced the launch of a 45-day consultation at the site – which specialises in the production of cooked poultry products – last week.

It followed a review of operations in the East Anglia region, and came amid “huge challenges facing our sector”, the business said, citing the inflationary pressures that have plagued the poultry industry over the past two years.

The Great Witchingham factory is situated close to Great Witchingham Hall, the stately home that has been at the heart of the brand’s marketing for more than four decades.

But despite investment in the facility in recent years, Bernard Matthews – which was acquired by 2 Sisters Food Group owner Ranjit Singh Boparan in 2016 via a pre-pack administration – had found the facility was “not a sustainable operation”.

This came despite “efforts to secure more business”, said a spokesman. However, despite these efforts it was “still loss-making and not commercially viable”, he added.

“Therefore, our proposal is to cease operations at this location, putting the site at risk of closure.”

If closure is confirmed, Bernard Matthews would look to offer staff alternative roles at its sister site at Holton in Suffolk, or across the wider Boparan group at sites owned by the business in East Anglia “where we intend to invest and grow”, the spokesman said.

“We understand this will be extremely disappointing news for everyone concerned at Great Witchingham. This proposal is in no way a reflection of the hard work and commitment our colleagues show every day.”

The move comes as Bernard Matthews cut its operating losses from just under £25m in 2021 to £9.6m in 2022, according to its latest accounts, for the year to 1 January 2023, posted at Companies House.

Turnover rose by 5.2% to £284.9m, the accounts showed.

Bernard Matthews came under fire in a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary in December, which made claims of serious food safety breaches at its Holton site.

However, the business stressed the site – which had completed a comprehensive five-day independent investigation in the week of broadcast that concluded there were no rule infringements – had also been subjected to a full FSA inspection on 4 and 5 December, with no food safety breaches found.

A Bernard Matthews spokesman said the supplier “wholeheartedly rejects the central thrust of this proposed Dispatches programme and condemns the tactics it employs”.

He added that Channel 4 “has set out to create a food scare story where none exists. Not only is this a gross slur on more than a thousand incredibly hard-working colleagues at this factory, it unfairly undermines our entire sector.”