Nestle will close down a baby formula factory in Ireland due to a falling birth rate in China, placing 560 jobs at risk.
The factory, in Askeaton County Limerick, makes products nearly entirely for the Chinese market and is set to close in 2026.
It is understood that the company is looking to transfer the production from Askeaton to two existing factories in China and Switzerland, the BBC reported.
The Irish minister for enterprise, trade and employment, Simon Coveney, described the move as “hugely disappointing”.
“It is hugely disappointing news as this facility has provided fantastic employment in Limerick and made a huge contribution to Ireland’s economy,” he said.
Last year, China reported its lowest birth rate on record of just 6.77 births per 1,000 people.
The end to the country’s one child policy in 2016, which ran for most of the 21st Century, has not led to an increase in births.
News of the Nestle closure comes as the Kit Kat maker revealed that sales volumes fell in the first nine months of the year as customers were put off by inflation-led price hikes.
The chocolate-to-coffee provider said it increased prices by 8.4 per cent due to rising inflation, leading sales to decrease by 0.4 per cent.
“The management attributes this volume decline to one or two isolated incidents,” Chris Beckett, head of equity research at Quilter Cheviot, said.
“The vitamins and nutrition segment experienced a dip, and there were challenges in bottling sufficient quantities of Perrier. Excluding these factors, there would have been a modest increase in volume. Nonetheless, its sales demonstrate resilience against these price hikes.”