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Swine fever outbreak boosts Suffolk and Norfolk pork exports

PUBLISHED: 12:54 21 May 2019 | UPDATED: 12:54 21 May 2019

TamwCranswick has reported soaring exports to China after African swine fever wiped out pig herds across Asia.  Picture: GETTY IMAGES

TamwCranswick has reported soaring exports to China after African swine fever wiped out pig herds across Asia. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

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Pork giant Cranswick has reported soaring exports to China after African swine fever wiped out pig herds across Asia.

Cranswick Country Foods in Watton - On the production line. Picture; Matthew Usher.Cranswick Country Foods in Watton - On the production line. Picture; Matthew Usher.

The firm, which has bases across Norfolk and Suffolk, saw exports surge by 16% in China and the Far East.

The epidemic has had a devastating impact on the world's biggest pork market since it was first reported back in August last year - decimating herds and driving up prices.

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Cranswick said that while effects of the disease could continue for "more than three years", it expects pricing to stabilise over the coming months.

The business operates sites in Watton, Weybread and Kenninghall and is currently building a giant £60m poultry factory in Eye.

Cranswick Country Foods in Watton - On the production line. Picture; Matthew Usher.Cranswick Country Foods in Watton - On the production line. Picture; Matthew Usher.

And, like many British businesses, has experienced a tough year of trading due to Brexit.

Revenues slipped by 1.9% to £1.44 billion in the year to March 2019 as the company faced "a backdrop of highly competitive market conditions and ongoing, Brexit-related, political and economic uncertainty".

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Like-for-like fresh pork revenues dipped by 3.8% due to lower wholesale and export demand in the first half of the year, although it was buoyed by a strong summer barbecue season, Cranswick said.

Cranswick Country Foods in Watton - On the production line. Picture; Matthew Usher.Cranswick Country Foods in Watton - On the production line. Picture; Matthew Usher.

And year on year exports across all regions increased by 3.1%.

The group's poultry arm delivered 18% year-on-year sales growth, with sales of "ready to eat" chicken growing faster than the wider meat sector.

Pre-tax profits also marginally declined over the period, falling to £86.5 million from £88 million in the previous year.

Margins are expected to contract during the current year on the back of economic uncertainty and the significant investment the new Eye poultry factory.

Cranswick Country Foods in Watton. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYCranswick Country Foods in Watton. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Adam Couch, chief executive officer, said: "The last year was one of consolidation following three years of very strong growth.

"We invested at record levels across our asset base and made further strong progress against our strategic objectives.

"I am confident that continued focus on the strengths of our business, which include its long-standing customer relationships, breadth and quality of products, robust financial position and industry leading infrastructure, will support the further successful development of Cranswick over the longer term".

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