ConAgra Foods will close Folcroft, Pa., plant plus 4 others

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ConAgra Foods will close Folcroft, Pa., plant plus 4 others

ConAgra Foods Inc. announced plans Thursday to close five manufacturing plants, including one in Pennsylvania, and eliminate about 400 jobs as part of a long-term plan to cut costs.

The closings are part of a reorganization plan the Omaha-based company announced earlier this year. Officials have said previously that as many as 12 plants could be closed as part of the plan.

ConAgra spokesman Chris Kircher said additional plant closings will be announced later. The changes disclosed Thursday will save the company about $50 million in fixed costs annually, which Kircher said is about halfway to the goal of saving about $100 million a year by fiscal 2009.

Two other plants will reduce production, and six will increase production as part of changes over the next 12 to 18 months.

The 400 job losses associated with Thursday's announcement represents the net change in jobs after some plants gain work and others close, Kircher said.

The plants that are closing are in Archbold and Rossford, Ohio; Fort Worth, Texas; Folcroft, Pa., and Laval, Quebec.

ConAgra's tomato paste plant in Helm, Calif., will also operate only on a seasonal basis. Production will increase at the Oakdale, Calif., plant.

The company's Memphis, Tenn., plant will stop producing plastic containers for vegetable oil products. ConAgra will buy containers from a supplier instead.

The company had previously announced plans to build a new plant in Fort Worth as long as local tax incentives are approved. That facility, which will be a regional canning and distribution center, could eventually gain 400 jobs over the current Fort Worth plant, Kircher said.

ConAgra plans to expand its Waterloo, Iowa, pudding plant to handle most of Rossford's pudding production. The plant in Menomonie, Wis., will also increase production.

Kircher said plants in Milton, Pa., and Garner, N.C., will also increase production.

ConAgra's overall restructuring plan involves shifting the company's focus to the brands company officials believe have the most potential, such as Healthy Choice, Chef Boyardee and Egg Beaters. Already this year, the company has sold its refrigerated meats, seafood and cheese businesses.

The businesses ConAgra sold this year have included well-known brands such as Butterball, Cook's, Louis Kemp, Armour, Decker, Ready Crisp and Margherita.

During the past decade, ConAgra has changed from a decentralized conglomerate based in agricultural commodities into a retailer of packaged food with centralized research, sales and administration.

Shares of ConAgra fell 6 cents to close Thursday at $23.50 on the New York Stock Exchange.