A great catch for scampi economy

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A SUBSIDIARY company of Whitby Seafoods Ltd has bought out a rival business.

In 2007, Whitby Seafoods Ltd acquired Middleton Seafoods Ltd and has since gone from strength to strength.

With the companies the joint largest processors of scampi in Europe, Middleton Seafoods has now acquired 100% in rival company Rockall Seafoods Ltd.

These two companies are located within sight of each other in Kilkeel Harbour, the main fishing port on the County Down coast in Northern Ireland.

The new joint Kilkeel enterprise will see the companies’ managing directors join forces under the Middleton banner, operating as Middleton Seafoods.

Jack Cowden of Middleton Seafoods said: “The coming together of the two businesses will improve the competitiveness of Ireland’s scampi processing industry at a time of acute pressure, brought about by very high raw material costs.”

The plan for the future investment is intended to lead to improvements in efficiency and product quality for both businesses.

There are no plans for redundancies as of yet but in the current economic climate and with the restructuring that is to take place, some loss of jobs may be inevitable.

Managing director of Rockall Seafoods, Wesley Newell, who will remain running the former Rockall factory, said: “This transaction is a good thing for the industry.

“The difficulties scampi processors have faced is evident by this year’s closures in Portovogie and Bladnoch, South Scotland.

“This acquisition will strengthen both businesses and protect Kilkeel’s scampi processing industry”.

Breaded scampi sales in the UK are estimated at 12,000 tonnes a year, equal to 80 million portions eaten both in and outside the home.

Despite a decline in landings in 2011 consumers retain a healthy appetite for the great British favourite not least because of increasing awareness of its health benefits.

Whitby Seafoods has invested £4.5 million in Kilkeel scampi since 2007 without any assistance from public funds.

This is alongside the multi million pound investment programme on their 55,000 square feet, state of the art scampi factory.

Managing director Graham Whittle explains: “The reason for our increasing investment in Kilkeel is to employ the town’s considerable skills in processing scampi developed over several decades.

It is also a great location to procure the valuable and sustainable harvest of scampi by the Northern Irish and Southern Irish fishing fleets”.

The joint production tonnage of the combined business will be over 5,000 tonnes of scampi, fishcakes, goujons and marinated prawns.

The projected turnover will be over £30 million.