An aid package for Scotland’s beleaguered pig producers was due to be announced by Scottish rural affairs minister Richard Lochhead, as Farmers Weekly went to press.

It was hoped the support package would reflect recommendations made by the pig industry taskforce set up by Mr Lochhead earlier this year.

The recommendations included compensation for cull sows slaughtered when pig prices collapsed last year following the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Surrey, and funding for vaccines to deal with pig diseases.

A second recommendation by the taskforce was for pig producers to be supported in making full use of EU aid rules which allow member states to pay farmers up to £5900 over a three-year period without contravening state-aid rules.

£25m Aid package

News of the move was welcomed by pig producers who were incensed last autumn when Mr Lochhead announced a £25m aid package for sheep farmers but said he could do nothing for the pig industry.

The Scottish government’s change of heart over an aid package of some type – following relentless pressure from NFU Scotland – was confirmed by first minister Alex Salmond during a visit to Turriff Show in Aberdeenshire earlier this week.

But he refused to reveal the contents of the package in advance of the official announcement expected to take place on Thursday, 7 August.

Talks delay

Mr Salmond said the announcement had been delayed to allow talks with Dutch meat processors Vion, which has now received clearance from the EU for its £380m take-over of the Grampian Country Food Group. The deal is expected to be completed on 14 August.

Grampian handle most of Scotland’s 14,000 per week pig kill at their Broxburn pig processing plant near Edinburgh.

“Vion obviously has a huge role to play in the Scottish pig sector and in the future of Scottish agriculture,” said Mr Salmond.

Producers have been concerned about the future of the Broxburn plant, which depends on supplies from Grampian’s own production units as well as the Scottish Pig Producers’ co-op.