Dutch food group Vion is to cut almost half the workforce at a lamb processing plant in Wales.

The firm said today (13 January) that it was proposing cutting over 200 of the 444 staff it employs at its Welsh Country Foods abattoir in Anglesey as a result of reduced processing demand for lamb.

Processing volumes at the site, Vion said, have declined "markedly" over recent months and future projections of demand do not indicate a return to previous levels of activity in the short to medium term.

As a result, there is a need to "better match" the slaughter and de-boning resource with projected volumes, Vion said. The company added that it is proposing to transfer its retail packing operations from Gaerwen to its Winsford, Cheshire site.

"In essence, this is as a result of falling demand for lamb," a spokesperson told just-food. "We need to get things in better balance because of the current economic climate. Lamb is a more expensive protein and more people have been switching to cheaper proteins like pork or chicken, and the demand and the output has fallen markedly over the last year. The forecast in the short to medium term doesn't suggest they will return to previous levels."

The business - a part of the former Aberdeen-based Grampian Country Food Group that Vion bought in 2008 - processes lambs from across the UK.

"The company has been in discussions with its supply chain partners to mitigate the impact on the site, but regrettably there is no alternative but to restructure the shape of our business to match current and future projections," the company said in a statement.

Jose Peralta, managing director Vion red meat business unit said: "Operating within an increasingly competitive and increasingly demanding marketplace, we must continually look to optimising our production facilities.

"We regret the need for these proposed changes announced today, and have informed our employees and their union representatives of our commitment to consult with them."

Vion said it will be consulting with the affected staff and to explore ways of avoiding redundancies, including transfers to other businesses within the company.