Lochhead promises action over Scottish poultry

A plan to support poultry farmers and protect the future of the industry in Scotland will be produced by Christmas, farming minister Richard Lochhead has promised.

The move follows the recent decision by leading poultry integrator 2 Sisters Food Group to transfer ownership of its Letham plant, downsize at Coupar Angus and end processing of free-range and organic chicken in Scotland.

Many jobs are at risk and some broiler producers are expected to lose their contracts.

Following a recent meeting with stakeholders, Mr Lochhead said: “I am pleased that we are close to agreeing a plan which will provide a stronger foundation for poultry production and processing in Scotland.

“Scotland has first-class poultry producers who operate to high animal welfare standards to deliver quality products to the market and we can’t simply afford to lose that. We want to ensure these farmers can stay in business so that, as far as possible, chicken that is consumed in Scotland is produced here.

The key work-streams will include:

• Supporting the development of a Scotland-wide producer group

• Identifying new market opportunities and capitalising on the growing demand for Scottish products

• Improving the efficiency and competitiveness of all parts of the supply chain

• Ensuring that the links in the chain are in place to maintain market reach and geographical spread

“The decision by 2 Sisters to reduce short-term production and processing has severe implications for the whole supply chain, including grain producers and hauliers,” said Mr Lochhead. “To protect the future of the industry, it is imperative we avoid a similar situation arising where we have one dominant player within the supply chain.

“The bottom line is that there is enough demand in Scotland for chicken to keep these producers in business – consumers want to buy Scottish chicken and a number of retailers are committed to stocking it.”

NFU Scotland’s president, Nigel Miller added that all those involved in Scottish chicken production had gone through some “dark, difficult days” and there was still real uncertainty about the future.

“It is crucial that all stakeholders buy into this Scottish chicken development plan and move it forward quickly,” he said. “The new Scottish producer’s group introduces a new force that can move the sector forward, It is now vital all parties recognise it as a key player in securing new opportunities and markets.

“During this start-up phase, NFU Scotland will be working in tandem with the new group. Developments will take a step forward on Monday 9 December when the Union will bring all the producers and other parties together (including SAOS, 2 Sisters and 2 Agriculture).”

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