Farmers slam government over Grampian job cuts

By Shelley Wright

FARMERS have claimed that the governments refusal to help the pig industry caused hundreds of job losses at one of the countrys biggest meat processors.

Grampian Country Food Group, the pig and poultry processor, will shed more than 600 staff early in the New Year, the company announced this week.

Although a final decision is yet to be taken on which of the firms plants will be affected, it claims the redundancies are needed to offset the lack of throughput.

“A company like ours cant lose 25% of its production without doing something about it,” said Fred Duncan, group chairman.

We need to cut costs by several hundreds of thousands a week.”

The firm, which has a turnover of more than £1 billion, employs over 11,000 staff at sites throughout Britain.

Mr Duncan said that Grampians own pig rearing units, capable of supplying 3000 finished pigs a week, had lost £2.8m in the past year.

Even so, the company had decided it would be necessary to increase numbers reared to offset as much as possible the national drop in pig numbers.

“We are processing 13-14,000 pigs a week in Scotland at the moment, but we anticipate that will fall to about 10,000 in the new year,” he said.

Scotlands pig herd has contracted by about a third since the market collapsed and many producers in Britain are still losing £10 each pig they sell.

Andrew Cheale, a director of Britains largest pigmeat exporters, Cheale Meats, said his firm was being offered pig herds for slaughter “left, right and centre”.

Jim Walker, president of the Scottish NFU, said the Grampian job losses were just one of the knock-on effects of governments refusal to help the pig industry.

“The job losses reflect the disastrous state the industry is in. But it doesnt stop at the processing sector,” he said.

“What will happen to a lot of the poor quality feed wheat, normally fed to intensive livestock, next harvest if we continue to see pig numbers drop?”

Ministers were warned countless times about the down-stream effects of the slump in farming but had turned their back on the pig industry, Mr Walker said.

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