Farmer-owned UK agri-businesses ANM is to restructure its remaining meat processing operations following the announced closure of two units in Scotland earlier this year.

ANM, which owns Aberdeen & Northern Marts, announced in January that it would be closing Scotch Premier Meat's lamb slaughter plant at Dornoch, which it bought out of receivership ten years ago. It said it would also close Highland Country Foods' meat processing unit at Forres with the loss of 50 jobs.

The firm said today (29 March) that lamb slaughtering activities from Dornoch will now be transferred to Inverurie.

The changes are part of what ANM said is its drive to “maintain the strongest possible core to its business in the face of declining livestock supplies and a highly competitive marketplace”.

“The only way a meat and livestock business such as ours can continue to prosper in today’s business and trading environment is by being smarter and fitter than our competitors,” said Alan Craig, ANM Group CEO. “We have a strong financial base, committed producer support, top class products and a highly skilled staff. These are the qualities which will keep us moving forward in 2010, and beyond, but only if we continue to make the right decisions on how the business is structured and operated.”

The firm said it hopes many of the staff affected will be able to transfer to other ANM plants.

The planned transfer of lamb slaughtering activities from Scotch Premier Meat’s Dornoch plant to its Inverurie base will be supported by a GBP400,000 (US$599,000) upgrade at the parent plant.

ANM said this is “an essential improvement”, which will increase the Inverurie plant’s capabilities for handling both sheep and pigs.

Craig said that, while 2009 was “one of the toughest trading years” it had ever faced, its balance sheet remains “one of the healthiest in the business”.

“It is vital that we retain this essential strength by continuing to reinforce the core of our business. That will sometimes involve change and the need for tough decisions,” he said.