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Pilgrim’s UK in crisis talks over future of Scotland’s only major pork processing facility

By David Porter

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There is imminent collapse of the pig processing sector in Scotland
There is imminent collapse of the pig processing sector in Scotland

Pilgrim’s UK has confirmed it has held talks over the future of Scotland’s only major pork processing site and discussions are ongoing with key stakeholders.

In a statement made today it was confirmed: "Pilgrim’s UK remains deeply committed to Scottish pig farmers and customers of Scottish-reared pork however the surrender of its China export licence has meant that the QPL abattoir in Brechin has become unsustainable.

"We remain optimistic that we can work this through while facing into the various on-going challenges impacting the industry."

The site in Brechin is owned and operated by Quality Pork Ltd (QPL), a close collaboration between Scottish pig farmers, Scotlean – the cooperative of Scottish pig producers – and Pilgrim’s UK, which is the sole customer of the site and has both financially and practically supported the operation since its relaunch in 2014.

In January 2021 the Brechin site voluntarily suspended its export licence with China following a Covid outbreak, with the expectation that this would be reinstated once the outbreak was contained.

However, despite being given the all-clear by public health authorities a few weeks later, Chinese officials have so far refused to reinstate the licence, with reports claiming that this is related to ongoing political tensions between China and the UK.

Scottish government provided a hardship fund for farmersaffected by the export licence suspension.

However, this only covered the period ending March 31, 2021, while farmers and producers continue to face ongoing challenges and mounting losses.

QPL, Pilgrim’s and other key stakeholders in the Scottish pork sector have continued to press for the reinstatement of the China licence, and for ongoing support for the sector from the UK and Scottish governments throughout this period.

However, with pig throughput at the site remaining unsustainably low, and with no indication that a resumption of the China export licence is forthcoming, Pilgrim’s UK has confirmed that it is no longer commercially viable to maintain current arrangements.

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