NFU Scotland last night confirmed they would be speaking to supermarket customers in an effort to save the poultry industry in Scotland.
And rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead announced the setting up of a small group of key stakeholders to look at the immediate and wider implications for Scotland’s poultry sector, and the various ancillary businesses that support the sector.
The moves came after an emergency meeting between the union and the Scottish Government on the repercussions of the 2 Sisters company cutting throughput at their Coupar Angus chicken processing plant.
Union boss Nigel Miller said: “The immediate issue with the plants themselves look like there could be significant job losses at the one plant which is obviously really difficult at this time of the year.”
However, the producers of broilers for the company were also told this week that their contracts to supply birds would be torn up after the next two batches of birds have been produced, meaning their sheds could be empty by the end of February.
Miller said: “We have real concerns that there has been a change in the poultry market and we will be working to identify that. We will be trying to identify the real reason that all of a sudden we need less poultry processed in Scotland in order for us to push volumes up again.”
Lochhead described the position as “uncertain and deeply worrying” and promised to ensure any impact was minimal. “I will be having further discussions with the industry and retailers in the days to come,” he said.
Mark Ogg, of Arnhall, Edzell, was one of a group of producers who were told this week that their contracts to supply birds would be torn up.
He said that the company had encouraged producers to upgrade their sheds to supply two of the country’s top supermarkets. “I have spent tens of thousands of pounds on putting more windows in and making other improvements upgrading my units to the highest standards,” he said. “Now I am being cut loose with no other buyer in the market.
“We will see processed chicken coming up from England and sitting on supermarket shelves while our production sheds lie empty. The company has stated they will only take chicken in from units they own. We are being left high and dry.”
Making matters worse for Ogg was the announcement that prices for the final two batches of chicken will be cut to a point where he reckons it is hardly worthwhile to fill the units.