Vion Food UK may have to close its Broxburn pig processing plant in West Lothian, resulting in the loss of more than 1,700 jobs.

The Dutch-owned firm bought the site in 2008, where it processes more than 8,000 pigs a week. However, it was recording “unsustainable losses” of £79,000 a day, despite significant capital expenditure and major restructuring exercises.

Chairman Peter Barr said the company was beginning a 90-day consultation with unions and workers. “This is an extremely sad day and one we have strenuously tried to avoid for the past four years, but we believe we have no alternative. There is significant over-capacity in the UK meat industry and market conditions are extremely challenging.”

Despite attempts to improve the former Grampian plant, losses had partly arisen due to its complexity and inefficient layout, he said. “If the consultation exercise does not reveal a viable way forward for this plant, a proportion of the work from these facilities will be transferred to other Vion UK plants.

“This is an extremely sad day and one we have strenuously tried to avoid for the past four years, but we believe we have no alternative. There is significant over-capacity in the UK meat industry and market conditions are extremely challenging.”
Vion chairman Peter Barr

“However, the market conditions are so severe that we will cease to supply the majority of products currently handled by this plant. We will make every endeavour to identify other Scottish producers who may be able to produce some of these products. We would also hope to extend the timeframe for any closure of the abattoir to minimise the potential impact on Scottish pig farmers.”

Jim McLaren, chairman of Quality Meat Scotland, said the announcement was a “body blow” for the industry. However, the pig sector had repeatedly shown its resilience and adaptability, and farmers had invested millions of pounds over the past 12 months to become highly efficient and sustainable, he added.

“With several major retailers increasing their commitment to sourcing and clearly labelling Specially Selected Pork, there is an obvious demand for Scottish product.”