Ebro Puleva, Spain's largest food company, could close three factories and dismiss 400 workers in efforts to survive the EU's sugar reform.

The company's union chief told just-food today (25 October) that Ebro Puleva was mulling the moves, which would slash production rates in half.

"This is something that's being seriously considered and could happen in 14 months," said Alberto de Frutos, secretary general for the UGT union's division at Ebro Puleva.

De Frutos' comments came as Ebro Puleva chairman Antonio Hernandez Callejas yesterday told Spanish media that the closures were a possibility.

Ebro Puleva, which also makes rice and dairy products, has seven sugar mills in Spain. Two of them - most likely Guadalcacin and Seville in southern Spain - could be shut. The other factory that could be closed is in Valladolid, central Spain.

De Frutos said 800 workers are employed at the three factories but Ebro Puleva has pledged to save 400 jobs by transferring workers to rice or biofuel manufacturing plants.

"These factories [to be closed] could very well be sold or re-converted to make biofuels," De Frutos added.

Ebro, which derives 25% of its annual revenues from sugar, is expanding in bioenergy as it seeks new businesses to offset potential losses stemming from EU sugar reform.