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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 February 2007, 18:16 GMT
Bird flu company sales fall 40%
Bart Dalla Mura
Bernard Matthews director Bart Dalla Mura talks about bird flu
The poultry company at the centre of a bird flu crisis in Suffolk and Hungary has seen its sales fall by up to 40%.

Bernard Matthews' commercial director Bart Dalla Mura told BBC Look East the business would bounce back but they had a lot of work to ensure it happens.

"Consumers will see we've been honest and open and we're putting our trust in them to come back," he said.

However a leading company monitoring brand affection said Bernard Matthews is currently ranked last out of 1,150.

Mr Dalla Mura said the investigation into the outbreak at the farm next to its production plant at Holton in Suffolk was still being carried out.

Ranked bottom

"We want to understand where the bird flu came from and we're concerned about its impact on our business and the jobs of our people.

"We are confident that consumers will be back because every other food scare in Britain has shown that this happens but we will still have to work hard to bring it about.

Bernard Matthews products
The company believes its sales will bounce back

"Everything that has been asked of us we have done and we believe we have handled the crisis well.

"Hindsight may show us we could have done some things better but we are in the hands of Defra and are working with them to complete their investigations so we can get back to full production."

However, many people in the industry are less optimistic and Sundip Chahal of YouGov BrandIndex said their latest survey revealed Bernard Matthews was the least liked brand in the country.

"It is currently ranked bottom of the 1,150 brands we track," he said.

We see wagons taking live turkeys down to the plant and we cannot even let ours out into a field
Carl Frost

Advertising agency director Ian McKinnon-Evans said the company had taken quite a hit and while the brand might recover quickly because it is robust there would be a long lasting impact on the company.

"The crisis has revealed that Bernard Matthews transported meat from all over Europe despite building a reputation as a British producer and this may be a longer lasting impression than the bird flu scare itself."

Smaller poultry producers have accused the authorities of double standards allowing the company to transport live birds even in the exclusion zones while theirs are kept indoors.

Carl Frost, at Windmill Farm near Holton, has flocks of free range laying hens and fears his production will fall because they are confined to sheds.

He also feels reopening the factory so soon was insensitive. "We see wagons taking live turkeys down to the plant and we cannot even let ours out into a field. That's really unfair to the small producers."

Bird sales at Mildenhall in Suffolk were among many that were cancelled for a second week running.

Trader Kerri Boswell said: "About 50% of my business is done at poultry sales and auctions but we can't move live birds while Bernard Matthews can and that's unfair."

Bird flu cuts Bernard Matthews business by 40%

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