A £715,000 hardship fund has been set up to offer financial support to pig producers affected by the temporary closure of the abattoir at Brechin earlier this year.

The Pig Producers Hardship Support Scheme delivers essential funding to eligible pig producers who supplied the Quality Pig Processors (QPP) plant at Brechin between February 8 and March 31 and were paid £15 less per pig by the abattoir during this period.

Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said: “I am very pleased to announce the opening of the Scottish Government’s Pig Producers Hardship Support Scheme for applications.

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.

"I would encourage all eligible producers to submit their applications as soon as possible.”

How to apply

The scheme is open for applications until September 26, 2021.

Full details, including guidance for applications and eligibility criteria, are published here on the Scottish Government website.

Eligible pig producers should send the completed and signed application together with the supporting evidence via email to the Scottish Government at: [email protected].

Payments will be prioritised in the order in which applications are received and no later than November 1, 2021.

'Challenges to the pig sector didn’t stop in May'

NFU Scotland’s vice president Andrew Connon said: “The closure of the Brechin plant during February and March due to Covid-19 had an immense impact on the Scottish pig industry and the impact is still being felt now with many pig producers in Scotland still losing money on every pig sold.

The serious disruption to the supply chain in the spring saw pig producers put the welfare of their animals first, introducing costly measures to ensure stock remained fed, watered and bedded while the main outlet for their animals was closed and the Chinese market lost.

"The impact of the backlog and the price penalties of £15/head that were introduced when the abattoir restarted prompted some producers to consider their future in keeping pigs, which could have affected the critical mass of the industry.

“This hardship support from the Scottish Government, lobbied for by NFU Scotland and other stakeholders, was agreed in May. It recognises the impact of Covid-19 at that time and will go some way towards helping pig producers recoup losses and continue to produce quality Scottish pork.

“However, the huge challenges to the pig sector didn’t stop in May and still persist with many still losing money right now. Deductions are still being made, slaughter capacity remains limited, the Chinese market remains closed and feed prices are increasing.

“Imported product is also on some shops shelves so it would assist greatly if all in the retail sector were to show the same commitment to sourcing Scottish pork as they have given to the beef and sheep sector.

"Stronger support from some retailers is crucial to ensuring that we will continue to have a strong pig industry in Scotland.”