Hundreds of jobs in Aberdeenshire are expected to be safeguarded as a result of a joint funding pledge from the Scottish Government and the European Union.
Investment of £1.6 million has been announced for Irish-based meat processing company Kepak, based in Portlethen.
Nearly 300 full-time jobs are now estimated to be secure as a result of the funding, as well as the creation of an additional 40 jobs.
The company is aiming to use the money to help significantly increase the amount of beef, cattle and lamb currently processed at the site.
The funding has been made available through the Food Processing, Marketing and Cooperation (FPMC) grant scheme, which is aimed at providing support for the Scottish food and drink businesses.
On a visit to the site, Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougeon said: “This is great news for the local area, not just to the hundreds of workers and their families who will welcome the job security this provides, but also because the factory plays a vital role in helping farmers get their quality beef and lamb products ‘from farm to fork’.
“In spite of the challenges being presented by Brexit, the Scottish Government continues to help our Food and Drink sector to realise the ambition to double in value to £30 billion over the next 12 years.
The FPMC scheme has provided vital financial support to over 200 Scottish food and drink businesses, helping to ensure the long-term viability of our primary producers, and maximise export markets for our fantastic Scottish produce.
“With Brexit looming, this is a timely reminder of how EU funding makes a real difference to the lives of people in rural Scotland – providing millions annually to our farmers, fishermen, and food producers.
“The UK Government has yet to guarantee much of that funding in the long term, should Scotland be taken out of the EU against its will.”
Portlethen site manager Alan Brown said: “Kepak Group very much welcomes the financial support provided by the Scottish Government towards the major (£5.4 million) upgrading of our Portlethen site.
“The well-established and reputable McIntosh Donald business was acquired seven months ago and we have moved quickly to develop and grow a business with great potential.
“The timely award of this FPMC grant is a great financial and morale boost for the management, staff and suppliers in these uncertain times.”