NFU Scotland has called on the Edinburgh government to provide financial support for public procurement body, Scotland Excel, to help it buy more local chicken.

In a letter to cabinet secretary Richard Lochhead, the Union has asked for measures to cut the cost of Scotland Excel switching supplies.

Union president Nigel Miller wants specific funding made available, with a stipulation that chicken for local authority contracts comes from growers in Scotland, to help keep them in business.

Mr Miller has also written to local retailers, urging them to take more fresh chicken from Scotland.

At the end of November last year, leading processor 2 Sisters Food Group announced plans to restructure its Scottish operations , creating an uncertain future.

2 Agriculture, the business which supplies poultry to 2 Sisters, offered new contracts to growers from the East Central region who are located close to the Letham and Coupar Angus processing plants. Organic growers were also offered contracts after a period of uncertainty.

However, non-organic growers in the North of Scotland, and in the Dumfries and Galloway regions, are still under notice of termination and will not be offered new contracts.

“We are at a crucial juncture,” said Mr Miller. “The growers in the north of Scotland alone produce more than six million chickens per year and are therefore central to any future growth of the industry in Scotland.

“The future prosperity of these growers has significant knock-on implications for Scottish agriculture as a whole, as they require more than 20,000t of Scottish cereals a year when rearing their birds.

“Further processing capacity in Scotland is being considered and the creation of this will be a positive development. However, this takes time and, if there is not an effort made during the intermittent period to keep the producer base in all parts of Scotland, it will be almost impossible to achieve the potential this industry holds.”