THE torrid speculation surrounding the future of Nestl Rowntree today might have led many to believe that the chocolate city is in meltdown.

Nestl bosses have moved to reassure workers that the wilder rumours are not true: the York factory has a future.

Even so, serious worries remain. Nestl Rowntree has long admitted that the high pound is hitting KitKat exports from York. Managing director Alastair Sykes revealed to the Evening Press in May that "the pound has really hurt us on the export side".

The facts are simple. Mainland European wholesalers are buying KitKats from the German factory because it is cheaper to do so. It makes no difference to them that the KitKat was created in York 60 years ago. They neither know nor care that Rowntree is part of the fabric of this city, to the extent that Joseph Rowntree is our Person Of The Millennium.

All that matters is the bottom line. This crisis only reminds us that the York factory is a mere outpost of the Nestl empire. The Swiss-based company is one of the biggest in the world. It has become this size by putting commercial considerations above sentiment: York's history as a confectionery city counts for little today.

Fortunately, however, the Haxby Road factory does not rely on its past. It is a hugely efficient plant producing record output. That is a tribute to the highly-committed workforce, the same workers who will be so worried by talk of a KitKat crisis today. Sales of KitKats in Britain remain very buoyant, offsetting the reduction in exports: a solid economic reason to keep producing them here.

We can speculate about why this story has broken today: is it part of a larger political movement to encourage Britain into the Euro, or perhaps a way of preparing the workforce for job cuts?

But whatever the background, we need everyone in a position of influence, including MP Hugh Bayley and the city council, to press Nestl for a promise not to cut the KitKat.