Scottish pig farmers facing financial difficulty following the closure of the country’s main pig processing plant earlier this year can apply for support via a government hardship scheme worth £715,000.
The scheme, announced by Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing, comes in response to calls for emergency support for the sector following the temporary closure of the Brechin pig abattoir in January.
The closure of the Quality Pig Processors plant resulted in a backlog in pigs waiting for slaughter and the loss of export licences to send product to China – a market which accounted for approximately 25% of the plant’s throughput.
This resulted in a combination of increased costs and reduced farmgate prices for pig producers, leading to industry leaders warning many farmers would cease pig production without financial support.
“I have listened to the sector’s urgent request for help in this specific and difficult circumstance,” said Mr Ewing.
“Therefore I made the decision to act now, in advance of the resolution of all issues related to the Covid-19 outbreak on site, in order to provide much-needed hardship support to affected pig farmers.
“The £715,000 will provide funding to pig farmers who have lost out through no fault of their own.”
He said the scheme aims to cover partial deductions applied to the price paid for pigs processed through the abattoir from February 8 up until the end of this month, and full details will be published on the Scottish Government’s website in due course.
NFU Scotland pigs committee chairman, Jamie Wyllie, welcomed the support package and said the temporary closure of the Brechin abattoir had had an immense impact on the Scottish pig industry.
He said: “We have already heard from some producers that they have seriously considered giving up, which would affect the critical mass of the industry.
“This support from the Scottish Government recognises the impact of Covid and will go some way towards helping pig producers continue to produce, thus sustaining the important critical mass.”
He called on retailers to do their bit to support the sector by filling their shelves with Scottish and British pork, rather than imported products.
Andy McGowan – the chief executive of pig farmers’ co-operative Scottish Pig Producers, which supplies pigs to the Brechin abattoir – said: “We are delighted that the Scottish Government is going to help in what has been a very difficult period for pig producers.
“We are not in the habit of asking for money; this has been unique. The impact of the Covid closure [of the plant] and the reduction in pig values because of the loss of the Chinese export market is all out of our control.”
Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin, who called for financial support for pig producers earlier this month, said: “I am really pleased the Scottish Government has now stepped in to support pig farmers in the north-east and across Scotland.
“This £715,000 hardship fund will help farmers access vital financial support now in the face of their current challenging working environment and I want to thank all the farmers in my constituency who got in touch to raise this issue with me.”