A SCOTTISH seafood company has cut 70 jobs after revealing plans to ship its scampi 5,000 miles to China for processing before bringing it back again to sell.
Dawnfresh will ship Dublin Bay prawns, also known as langoustines, caught in Scottish waters to China where the seafood will be part-processed by cheap labour, before heading back to Britain for sale in supermarkets.
Britain's second biggest scampi producer, Uddingston-based Dawnfresh, will lay off 70 of its 325-strong Scots workforce in favour of Chinese labour earning as little as 20p an hour.
Once hauled out of Scottish waters, the seafood will be frozen and shipped to China where it will be hand shelled and sent back to Scotland by sea in chilled containers.
The shellfish, which is unique to Scotland, will then be breaded at the frozen food firm's 10 million factory before being supplied to supermarkets such as Marks & Spencer, Asda and Somerfield.
The company blames rising economic pressures for the move which has been slated by politicians and industry experts as "crazy" and "ridiculous".
Dawnfresh director Andy Stapley admitted that the situation was "bizarre" but insisted that the firm had no alternative.
He said: "This seems a bizarre thing to do but the reality is that the numbers don't stack up any other way. We are not the first in the industry to have had to do this. Sadly, it's cheaper to process overseas than in the UK and companies like us are having to do this to remain competitive."
The peeled langoustine tail is a huge export for Scotland - netting the industry about 70m a year. About 30,000 tonnes is caught every year, mainly in the North-east and the Clyde coast.
Local MSP Michael McMahon said: "It's a Scottish product caught only in Scottish waters, so for it to be shipped to China and back seems ridiculous. I gather from industry sources that the Chinese workers will be paid a pittance, working very long hours for around 40 a month.
"But Dawnfresh were very open about the economic consequences if they did not do this and told me how much money they have lost."
Jim McLelland, the Scottish secretary of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union, said: "The whole plan seems crazy. But this is what companies in this country are being forced to do just to stay afloat as we are being forced into price wars. The worry is that the firm off-load the whole process to China."
Scottish Enterprise has invested 56,000 in the company over the last three years for product and market development.