Pig producers are to be offered a further £680,000 in 'hardship support', as their sector continues to face major challenges.

Last summer, the Scottish Government announced a hardship support scheme with £715,000 in funding, available to pig producers who were affected by the temporary closure of Brechin abattoir in February – this scheme has now been extended and will re-open to pig producers early this year.

The closure of Quality Pig Processors plant at Brechin resulted in a backlog in pigs waiting for slaughter and the loss of its licence to export pork to China. The sector continues to struggle as it awaits export restrictions to be lifted, prompting Scottish Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon to announce an extension to the hardship scheme with fresh funding of more than £680,000.

Ms Gougeon said: “The Covid-related closure of Brechin abattoir last year and the subsequent loss of the plant’s export licence to China has continued to have a negative impact on pig farmers, during already unprecedented challenging times for the farming industry.

“The Pig Producers’ Hardship Scheme made available last summer delivered essential funding to eligible producers during this difficult period and I am pleased to announce that we are extending this scheme, which underlines our continuous support for our livestock sector," she explained.

Read more: ScotGov launch hardship support scheme for pig producers

“The scheme will open early this year, when a further announcement will be made providing guidance for applications. I would encourage all eligible producers to submit their applications and benefit from this additional financial support.”

NFU Scotland welcomed the Scottish Government's fresh commitment to supporting the industry through the ongoing impacts of the Covid crisis: "This is something that the union has pushed to secure, and will go some way to alleviate the immense pressure that the industry is currently under due to low staffing levels throughout the supply chain as a direct result of the pandemic. These issues caused by Covid come at a time of high input costs on farms, poor prices globally, and a lack of equivalent controls and checks on EU product coming into the market, upsetting market balance and impacting the sector’s ability to ride out the disruption caused by the pandemic on its processing sector.”

Executive manager of Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers, Martin Morgan, added: "This is a very welcome move by the Scottish Government which will help to underpin the viability of the primary pigmeat supply chain in Scotland of which both the Quality Pig Processors (QPP) plant in Brechin and Robertson's Fine Foods in Ayrshire are important customers."

However, Scottish Conservative Shadow Rural Affairs Secretary Rachael Hamilton MSP, said the extension was 'long overdue': “When the scheme opened initially, there was a very small window of time for producers to apply for funding. It was only in November that Mairi Gougeon told me that this scheme would not be getting extended. This belated u-turn is welcome and now the scheme must get up and running as soon as possible.”