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Falling salmon demand forces French plant closure

Falling demand for smoked salmon in France and competition from lower cost production operations in Poland have helped squeeze margins from supermarket chains.

Delpierre, owned by Labeyrie Fine Foods, said it will close the Wiches salmon packing plant in France's eastern Alsace region and shift production to other sites within the group.

The move comes amid falling demand for smoked salmon in France and competition from lower cost production operations in Poland that has encouraged supermarket chains to squeeze the margins of processors.

French smoked salmon consumption has fallen to 14,000 metric from 20,000 metric tons in recent years, as consumers have shunned the product amid negative publicity surrounding fish production methods.

Consequently, the plant has seen a 50 percent loss in production volume in the past years.

Among the likeliest destinations for the Wiches salmon processing operations are Fecamp in Seine-Maritime, in the northern Normandy region, which handles uncooked products, and the Saint-Geours-de-Maremne value-added plant in Landes, southwestern France.

Delpierre spokesperson Axel Parkhouse told IntraFish the company is determined not to shift salmon processing operations to Eastern Europe but could no longer keep the financially unviable Wiches plant running.

"We are merging the operations of the biggest plants and closing down that one," Parkhouse said. "There is no change in volumes done by Delpierre but just a change in the footprint."

The plant is scheduled to close in early 2020, which comes as unwelcome news for its 150 permanent employees and between 150 and 200 seasonal workers.

Delpierre expects to create an unspecified numbers of jobs in sites where the Wiches salmon processing is moved, as most workers will be unable to relocate.

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