Scottish pig farmers affected by the temporary closure of the country’s main pig abattoir earlier this year are invited to apply for support from a £715,000 government hardship fund.
The Pig Producers Hardship Support Scheme, which was first promised in March, will offer support to eligible pig farmers who supplied the Quality Pig Processors (QPP) plant in Brechin between February 8 and March 31 and were paid £15 less per pig by the abattoir during this period.
The temporary closure of the QPP 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.
Announcing the opening of the fund, Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said: “The Covid-related closure of Brechin abattoir earlier this year and the subsequent loss of the plant’s export licence to China have had a negative impact on pig farmers, during already challenging times for the farming industry.
“We have worked closely with the sector to make sure that this hardship fund provides affected farmers with adequate financial support for losses incurred through no fault of their own.”
The fund, which is open for applications until September 26, will offer payments to farmers no later than November 1, and payments will be prioritised in the order in which applications are received.
Full details of the scheme are available on the Scottish Government website or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Meanwhile, the National Pig Association has warned tens of thousands of pigs are waiting on British farms to go for slaughter due to post-Brexit labour shortages in abattoirs.
The association’s chief executive, Zoe Davies, said: “There are currently 70,000 pigs backed upon farm, rising by 15,000 a week due to pork processors permanently reducing throughput as a result of labour shortages in plants, especially butchers, and there is no end in sight.”
She called on politicians to take action on the issue and and warned healthy pigs will end up destroyed and wasted if a solution is not found to labour shortages in abattoirs.
Dr Davies added: “We are expecting an exodus of pig keepers from this year into next, as they have simply had enough – for almost a year now they have been losing money.”
Last week meat processors warned the labour problems could result in a shortage of pigs in blankets at Christmas, and the managing director of Scottish Pig Producers, Andy McGowan, said farmgate prices were beginning to fall and Scottish farmers were facing delays getting pigs to slaughter.
He said: “It’s quite a frustrating period. The prices have just turned downwards and we will see them coming back (down) for the next wee while.”
Mr McGowan said the pig industry was still working to Brechin pig abattoir’s export licence for China.