A scheme set up to provide financial support to pig producers affected by the temporary closure of the Brechin abattoir last year, and the subsequent suspension of its China export licence, is to be extended.
Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon has announced further of more than £680,000 in extending the scheme, as the sector waits for export restrictions to be lifted.
The closure of the Quality Pig Processors (QPP) plant at Brechin resulted in a backlog in pigs waiting for slaughter and the loss of their licence to export pork to China.
The £715,000 Pig Producers Hardship Support Scheme was initially made available in August to deliver what the Scottish Government described as ‘essential funding’ to eligible pig producers who supplied the QPP between February 8 and March 31 last year.
The extended scheme will open early this year, when a further announcement will be made providing guidance for applications. Ms Gougeon encouraged all eligible producers to ‘submit their applications and benefit from this additional financial support’.
She said: “The COVID-related closure of Brechin abattoir last year and the subsequent loss of the plant’s export licence to China has continued to have a negative impact on pig farmers, during already unprecedented challenging times for the farming industry.
“The Pig Producers’ Hardship Scheme made available last summer delivered essential funding to eligible producers during this difficult period and I am pleased to announce that we are extending this scheme, which underlines our continuous support for our livestock sector.”
NFU Scotland welcomed the announcement, which it said would continue to support the industry through the ongoing impacts of the Covid crisis.
“This is something that the Union has pushed to secure, and will go some way to alleviate the immense pressure that the industry is currently under due to low staffing levels throughout the supply chain as a direct result of the pandemic,” a spokesperson said.
“These issues caused by Covid come at a time of high input costs on farms, poor prices globally, and a lack of equivalent controls and checks on EU product coming into the market, upsetting market balance and impacting the sector’s ability to ride out the disruption caused by the pandemic on its processing sector.”
Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) executive manager, Martin Morgan, said: “This is a very welcome move by the Scottish Government which will help to underpin the viability of the primary pigmeat supply chain in Scotland of which both the Quality Pig Processors (QPP) plant in Brechin and Robertson’s Fine Foods in Ayrshire are important customers.”
Producers in Northern Ireland benefited from two tranches of funding provided as a result of Covid-related export problems last year. However, Defra has rejected calls by the NPA for compensation for English producers affected by the events of the past year or so.