US meatpacking giant Smithfield Packing Co has taken the first step toward the permanent plant closure of its Norfolk, VA Division, saying that it has decided to consolidate its business operations and transfer production to other operating divisions, including the facility in Smithfield. The company said that it has provided notice to a portion of its 160-strong workforce that they will be laid off on or about 2 July 2002. The remaining workforce will be phased out by November 2002.