16.4.2004 08:50

Atria Group plc, Finland's largest meat company and the biggest manufacturer of 
meat products in the Nordic and Baltic countries, has decided to invest in the 
extension and refurbishing of its pig slaughterhouse in Nurmo as well as its 
sties and refrigeration and storage facilities. The construction works will 
begin in September 2004. The premises are slated to be fully completed and ready 
for inauguration in spring 2006. The investment has a pricetag of slightly over 
EUR 21 million and will impart significant operational cost-savings. It will be 
carried out because the present production capacity is being fully utilised, the 
company aims to harness the latest technology and to achieve cost-savings.

Works on the pork line investment will be divided into several stages. 
Construction will begin in September this year. In the first stage, a new 
stunning area and sties will be built. They will be completed in March 2005. The 
second stage of the construction works will be completed at the beginning of 
2006. The second stage focuses on the refurbishing of the slaughterhouse. The 
entire project will be seen to completion in spring 2006.

Atria's production plant in Nurmo features about 120,000 m2 in modern production 
premises, most of which were built in the 1990s or later. Construction in Nurmo 
began with the building of a deep-freeze storage facility in 1976. The current 
pig slaughterhouse was completed in 1982. It was state-of-the-art for its time 
and since then over 9 million pigs have been processed on its line. The Nurmo 
production plant processes about 2,200 pigs each day. The modernisation of the 
line has now become timely.

At its production plant in Kuopio, Atria processes about 700 pigs per day. In 
the EU, the profitability of such small units has become questionable. For this 
reason, pig slaughtering will most likely be transferred from Kuopio and 
centralised in Nurmo after the new plant is completed.

Works on the pig slaughterhouse that will now be modernised will comprise 6,300 
m2 in new production premises and the refurbishing of 5,100 m2 in existing 
premises. The modernisation works involve the sties, the stunning, refrigeration 
and storage facilities, the production lines themselves, and the laboratory. It 
is intended that the extension will increase the capacity of the pork line and 
ensure high-quality product safety in the future as well with new, cutting-edge 
technology. The processing capacity will increase substantially; the present 
hourly rate of 295 pigs will rise to 600 pigs. The production line will be 
robotically automated. New technology makes it possible to pay even greater 
attention to slaughtering hygiene. The other new technology that will be 
deployed will also assure the product quality of the meat raw materials and 
product safety.

Pork production is exceeding in Finland. In 2003, the production volume grew by 
five per cent compared with the previous year. Atria's pork procurements grew by 
seven per cent. Pork consumption was up three per cent. Imports of pork 
decreased to one per cent and exports of Finnish pork increased by 32.7 per cent 
in 2003 compared with the previous year. (Source: Meat market report, January-
December 2003, Suomen Gallup Elintarviketieto Oy). 

Atria's pork procurement and processing volumes have increased steadily. It is 
estimated that over 64 million kg of pork will be processed this year, while 
60.7 million kg was processed last year and 55.9 million kg five years ago. As 
Atria brand products are made solely from Finnish meat, a considerable share of 
the pork is used in the manufacture of the company's own meat products. In 
addition, Atria is a significant meat vendor both on the domestic wholesale 
market and in export markets. Operations in export markets set stringent quality 
requirements on the production plant and meat processing.

The new production line will have a minimal impact on personnel in Nurmo. 
However, the further processing of meat increases the need for employees. The 
potential discontinuation of pig slaughtering in Kuopio would lead to personnel 
cuts of 125 people. At present, 350 people work at the Kuopio plant.

Atria is currently looking into starting up production operations in Russia. At 
present, close to half of Atria's turnover is generated outside Finland's 
borders. The company aims to further increase the share of production operations 
accounted for by Baltic rim countries. The pig slaughterhouse investment now 
being planned does not have any effect on these expansion plans.


Seppo Paatelainen


Helsinki Exchanges
Principal media