Secretary of State for the Economy Agnès Pannier-Runacher said Monday that the government wants to “complete” a project to revive a mask factory installed in Brittany and which closed in 2018.
“We are working on it. At this stage, we are making it happen,” the secretary of state said during a press conference on the production of masks in France. “What interests us is to have an industrial project behind,” she said.
The former Spérian factory in Plaintel (Côtes-d’Armor) produced more than eight million masks a year ago. Its production capacity even exceeded 200 million masks in 2010. It was then the main factory of respiratory masks in France but closed its doors at the end of 2018.
“We support all the production projects for surgical masks and FFP2 that are established and progress. We make sure to help find the raw material, the machines and support in the authorization phases,” said Ms. Pannier-Runacher .
Following the Covid-19 epidemic, the closure of the Plaintel factory came back to the fore. A small group of former employees, led by Jean-Jacques Fuan, former director of the site from 1991 to 2003, is trying to relaunch production, in the form of a cooperative society of collective interest (SCIC). The Brittany region has pledged its support, provided that the state makes long-term commitments to public procurement.
If the factory closed, it is both because it did not meet the profitability criteria required by Honeywell, but also because the State renounced, from 2011, its orders in order to constitute mask stocks in anticipation of a pandemic.
In 2005, the Ministry of Health had ordered 200 million masks over three years at the Plaintel plant, considering it impossible to “depend exclusively on imports which would be interrupted in the context of a pandemic”, according to a document published by the Radio France investigation unit.
When the factory closed, some of the machines were relocated to Nabeul (Tunisia) and the rest were sent for scrap.