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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 September 2007, 11:36 GMT 12:36 UK
184 tobacco jobs go at city plant
The Cardiff factory is set to close in September 2009
The Cardiff factory is set to close in September 2009

A cigar factory that has been at the centre of a Cardiff community for nearly 100 years is to close with the loss of 184 jobs.

The decision to close the Japan Tobacco factory in Grangetown has been blamed on a fall in cigar sales, which has been accelerated by the smoking ban.

The site in Penarth Road, known locally as JR Freeman's, will close in September 2009.

Production will move to Northern Ireland, where 95 jobs will be created.

Staff at the factory were being briefed on the closure on Thursday.

A spokesman for Gallaher, part of the Japan Tobacco group which now owns the factory, blamed a 50% reduction in sales since 1999 for the closure.

"The decision is a result of a continuing decline in the UK cigar market, and has been accelerated by the smoking ban," he said.

"It is a commercial decision (to move production to Northern Ireland)," he said.

The cigar factory
It's a great blow to the area, it's been a big employer for many years. Whole families have worked there, particularly women
Joan Gallagher, secretary of Grangetown Community Concern

"Commercially it is not viable to keep the Cardiff factory open."

The new jobs are expected to be created at the company's factory at Lisnafillan, Ballymena, Co Antrim, which employs more than 900 workers.

The spokesman added: "Obviously the proposal is regrettable and the changes do not reflect the performance of the factory of the workforce in Cardiff."

The old JR Freeman cigar factory moved to Grangetown in Cardiff in 1908 from London and relocated to a new factory in nearby Penarth Road in the early 1960s.

Joan Gallagher, secretary of Grangetown Community Concern, said whole generations worked at the factory, which also employed in the past bus-loads of workers travelling from the south Wales valleys.

"It's a great blow to the area, it's been a big employer for many years. Whole families have worked there, particularly women," she said.

Gallaher Group Plc, which makes Silk Cut and Benson & Hedges cigarettes, was taken over by Japan Tobacco earlier this year.

Ian Paisley, who is assembly member for North Antrim, said it was "sad news for Cardiff but of benefit to Ballymena."

"It is a vote of confidence in the Ballymena plant and will mean a significant increase in jobs in the locality."




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
See the workers' views on the closure annoucement



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