Perdue will close W.Va. plant

Petersburg deboning operation employs 365

DeLuca sale planned

August 14, 2002|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

Perdue Farms Inc., the big Salisbury-based poultry processor, announced yesterday that it will close a Petersburg, W. Va., chicken deboning plant employing 365.

The company also said it would seek to sell its DeLuca Foods operation in Middlebury, Conn. If a buyer is not found, the plant is to be closed at the end of the year. It makes refrigerated entrees, including Italian and chicken dishes, and employs 74.

The Petersburg plant is scheduled to close Oct. 11. Tita Cherrier, a spokeswoman for Perdue, said the company will try to find openings within its operations for displaced workers and will help others find jobs outside the company.

"These were difficult decisions," said James Perdue, chairman of Perdue Farms. "We never take lightly any decision that affects our associates, their families or communities."

Cherrier said the consolidations are not linked to interruptions of chicken shipments to Russia or the settlement last week of a $10 million lawsuit over workers' pension benefits and overtime work.

"They are market-driven decisions to make us more competitive," she said.

The company attributed the closing of the Petersburg plant to the declining price of boneless chicken breasts in recent years. It said prices are not expected to rise in the year ahead.

The boneless breast processing is to be moved to other Perdue operations, reducing transportation and other costs.

The company said the DeLuca line, which it acquired in 1998, is not profitable and that continued losses are forecast.

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