More than 80 jobs are to be axed by poultry producer Bernard Matthews as it looks to cut costs following a sluggish demand for its Christmas turkeys.

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Great Witchingham hall, Bernard Matthews' headquarters.  Photo: Bill SmithGreat Witchingham hall, Bernard Matthews' headquarters. Photo: Bill Smith

The embattled EDP Top100 company – which is striving to bounce back from a £20.3m loss – confirmed yesterday that it would close its Lincs Turkeys factory in Grainthorpe because a slowdown in orders had made it economically unviable.

But the controversial move could create new jobs at its factories in Norfolk and Suffolk when it transfers production from the Lincolnshire site to processing plants in Great Witchingham and Holton.

It follows the announcement last month that it had recruited Rob Burnett from Hain Daniels Group as its new chief executive in a bid to steer the company onto a firmer financial footing.

A spokesman said: “Bernard Matthews can confirm that it has begun a staff consultation process with its workforce at its Lincs Turkeys’ processing site at Grainthorpe in Lincolnshire, as a result of the company’s proposal to close the site.

Rob Burnett, Bernard Matthews new Chief Executive.Rob Burnett, Bernard Matthews new Chief Executive.

“The consultation is expected to result in a reduction of approximately 80 employees out of a workforce of 2130.

“The decision to make this proposal was not taken lightly, but due to a significant reduction in Christmas orders for Lincs Turkeys in 2014 the site will no longer be economically viable, and processing requirements will be integrated into to the Norfolk and Suffolk sites and the factory in Grainthorpe will be closed.”

Bernard Matthews bought Lincs Turkey five years ago to help strengthen its campaign to promote turkey as a healthy meat in the wake of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s damaging campaign against the company’s turkey twizzler products.

But more recently the company has seen its revenues squeezed by high feed costs and pressure from supermarkets to keep their prices down.

The spokesman added: “The business remains firmly committed to the Lincs Turkeys business and its farming operation will remain unchanged.

“The company is currently entering into consultation with affected staff, which we understand may cause a degree of uncertainty for these individuals, but staff will be offered the opportunity to relocate to one of its other sites and they will be kept regularly updated throughout the process.”

• Have you been affected by the job cuts? Contact business writer Ben Woods on 01603 772426 or email ben.woods@archant.co.uk

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