Cranswick chief issues call over labour market clarity, as Watton-based pork producer announces major deal

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

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

The head of pork producer Cranswick has called on the government to provide greater clarity over the labour market in the wake of the Brexit vote.

Adam Couch, chief executive of Cranswick Country Foods, Picture submitted.

Adam Couch, chief executive of Cranswick Country Foods, Picture submitted. - Credit: Archant

Adam Couch, chief executive of the EDP/EADT Top100 firm, issued the plea as the company revealed revenue was 11% ahead of the same period last year along with the sale of its sandwich-making subsidiary.

It comes after Cranswick, which employs more than 1,000 people in Watton, snapped up fellow EDP/EADT Top100 firm Crown Chicken Limited in a £39m deal earlier this year.

Investment at Crown's Weybread base, near Harleston, would follow this acquisition, said Mr Couch, who added there would be further jobs growth as an ambitious plan to increase its output from half a million to a million birds a week came into play.

And while Britain's vote to leave the European Union had raised concerns over freedom of movement of workers, Mr Couch said the subsequent fall in sterling had helped bolster exports to the Far East.

However the weaker pound had affected trade, he said, with costs for imported soya – used in feed – and its range of continental meats creeping up.

But he added: 'We are very confident we can mitigate the impact of Brexit to a greater or lesser extent.

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'We have some concerns over the labour market, and it will be interesting to see what the government is going to impose on that. That is key. We need some clarity in this area.'

The Hull-based company yesterday revealed it had sold The Sandwich Factory Holdings, based in Warwickshire, to food producer Greencore in a £15m deal.

Mr Couch said this was to ensure Cranswick could focus on its core business of pork and poultry.

'We have invested in our core protein capabilities, which is pig and poultry,' he said. 'That's where our growth and main investment is.'

And he said further deals could be on the horizon, adding: 'We are always in the market for acquisitions and we have got a really strong balance sheet. We're hoping to be debt-neutral by the end of the year.'

Cranswick recorded revenues of £1.07bn and pre-tax profits of £58.7m to March 31, 2016 and the latest trading update revealed export volumes to the Far East were 60% ahead on last year.

Is your business planning an acquisition? Email sabah.meddings@archant.co.uk

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