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Thursday, 29 March, 2001, 16:37 GMT 17:37 UK
Firms admit impact of foot-and-mouth
Ulysses, the world's largest ferry
Ulysses, the world's largest ferry, has been launched at a time of disappointing demand
Hotels operator Your Group has joined a long list of firms, including a ferry operator and a mail order firm, which expect the foot-and-mouth epidemic to hit their profits.

Your Group cited the epidemic as one of several reasons why the future was uncertain.

Shipping firm Irish Continental, which on Sunday launched the world's largest ferry on the Dublin-Holyhead route, has blamed the outbreak for trimming the 6.7% growth in car traffic over the winter back to 0.8% in recent weeks.

Kleeneze, the mail order specialist, has said travel restrictions imposed by the government in an effort to tackle the disease have, by hindering distributors, constrained sales growth.

And foods firm Uniq, the former Unigate, on Wednesday said the disease would cost it 3.5m in February and March alone.

Lost exports

The outbreak has disrupted operations at the firm's Malton Foods pig meat subsidiary, the UK's largest pork processor, Uniq said.

And a ban on meat exports is threatening a market worth 30m a year to Malton, a business that is already struggling to absorb rises in UK pig meat prices attributed largely to the implementation of improved animal welfare measures.

Malton Foods has axed its Middlesbrough site, reduced head office numbers and will in May close a plant in Cheshire.

While a relaxation in animal movement restrictions should "provide some alleviation" to Malton's plight, "there remains considerable uncertainty" about the total impact of the disease, Uniq said.

The announcement came as Uniq, which sold its dairy and cheese interests in July, revealed it is to spin off its Wincanton logistics business.

Profits warnings

Wednesday's statements brought to at least 25 the number of UK and Irish firms which have warned that the outbreak of the disease will affect earnings, or which have at least reviewed the outbreak's potential impact.

On Tuesday, Power Leisure, owner of the Irish bookmaker chain Paddy Power, said the cancellation of horse and dog racing events because of the disease had "materially adversely affected" takings.

And Old English Inns, which runs 164 outlets throughout Britain, warned that implications of the outbreak had "severely affected" trade.

Bank of Ireland has reviewed whether the outbreak will prompt a surge in the numbers of farmers defaulting on loans, while upmarket food retailer Fortnum & Mason is waiting to see whether the disease will hit the number of overseas tourists, a key customer group.

Gainer from disease

British Polythene, which produces packaging materials for agricultural goods such as fertilizers and silage, has warned the disease will have some negative impact on trade.

Ironically, restrictions on livestock movements imposed following the outbreak have, through preventing the transfer of animals to new pastures, provided a short term boost to trade, chairman Cameron McLatchie said.

"We are detecting shortages of forage for livestock, and have seen good demand for animal feed sacks from certain parts of Europe," he said.

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See also:

22 Mar 01 | Business
Ireland's 'foot-and-mouth' fears
20 Mar 01 | Business
UK economy to ride out farm crisis
06 Mar 01 | Business
Foot-and-mouth 'to hit land prices'
01 Mar 01 | Business
Rising cost of farm crisis
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