17 February 2000
Threat to Scotland’s only OSR plant

By Shelley Wright

THE future of Scotlands only oilseed processing plant hangs in the balance.

Receivers called in to the Arbroath crushing factory in September, hope they can sell the business.

But the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has now called a halt to processing after complaints from local residents about the smell.

A SEPA spokeswoman said that, after a full investigation of the plant in December, a decision had been taken to revoke the processing licence.

She indicated that pollution control measures in the factory were inadequate and, as a result, notice had been served that production must halt by 13 March.

Iain Watters, a partner with receivers Arthur Andersen, said that despite requests, SEPA had still not provided full details of the problems it found at the plant.

But he was hopeful that any difficulties could be overcome. Mr Watters added that a number of companies had expressed interest in the business and discussions were now under way.

The Arbroath factory, completed and opened in the past five years, is small by international standards, and is only capable of handling a maximum of 200t a day – about 7% of Scotlands oilseed output.

It has had a chequered history since, with smell pollution problems and sporadic operation due to lack of funds.

Even so, Scotlands farmers hope the plant can be saved.

“Local processing facilities are vital to Scotlands farmers.

“Without them, transport costs can destroy the viability of local production. That has already happened with sugar beet throughout Scotland,” said Douglas Morrison, chairman of the Scottish NFUs combinable crops committee.

“The closure of a plant may reduce local pollution, but it can result in more fossil fuel being burned to transport crops hundreds of miles further,” he added.

Mr Watters said the additional transport costs involved in exporting oilseed, or hauling it to Britains main processing sites in Merseyside and Kent, should make a Scottish factory viable.

But Glyn Whitehead, managing director of the Aberdeen Grain co-op, maintained that Scottish growers were unlikely to suffer financially if a buyer for the Arbroath site could not be found.

“While it is always good to have local facilities, growers were not really getting any premium for sending crops there.

” The only potential downside for price is if freight charges rise dramatically,” he said.