THERE was shock in the village of Port William last weekend after news broke that six jobs will be lost after the Dourie Farming Company announced the closure of one of the oldest pig farm in the country due to rising costs.
After more than 50 years of pig production, the Christie family has decided to wind down their pig farming enterprise operated by G&R Farming.
Gregor Christie, Partner, G&R Farming said: “This has been a gut wrenching decision to make. The loss of several loyal and long serving staff is heart breaking and a decision we have not taken lightly. However, we feel the decision is a necessary one in order to move forward at this uncertain time”.
A spokesman for the company blamed the dramatic rise in feed costs in recent months and the price received for the pigs has failed to balance the books. The economic circumstances have made the operation unsustainable and ceasing pig production is seen as the only viable option in the short term.
Every pig leaving the farm is doing so in debt. Losses for the current financial year are estimated to run to an excess of £250,000 unless action is taken. Six direct jobs will be affected by the closure of the 600 sow breeding unit. But more job losses could be seen as the effect of this business closure ripples through the rural community.
The Christie family stressed they had not completely washed their hands of pig farming. Looking to the future, a Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP) application has been submitted to try to secure funding to build a state-of-the-art facility for pig production. This will enable them to produce animals more efficiently, give more control over costs, and allow them to produce pig meat in a world that is driven by cheap food and supermarket profits. If funding is granted building works could begin as early as May 2011. This will provide a boost to local trade and allow the firm to re-employ in the farming community.
Jim Hume, Liberal Democrat MSP for the South of Scotland, expressed sadness at the end of one of Scotland’s oldest pig producers, based in Port William in the south west.
“It’s very sad indeed that one of the oldest piggeries in Scotland is shutting its doors for the last time.
“This is not only a great loss for the Christies and their employees, but it’s also a cruel reminder of the economic difficulties livestock producers face.
“The pig industry is under severe pressure in a double pronged attack of high feed prices and low prices at the farmgate.
“And once again, we’re reminded of the brutal inequities in a long and complicated food chain which very rarely favours the primary producer.
“The fact is that the British livestock industry has far higher levels of animal welfare standards than overseas.
“If supermarkets continue to fail to pay a fair price at the farmgate for British meat and opt for cheaper imports, then consumers will be buying pig products reared in systems that would be deemed illegal in the UK on animal welfare grounds.
“Retailers and supermarkets must pay a fairer price at the farmgate for British meat to keep the industry viable, and to ensure their shelves are stocked with meat farmed to high animal welfare standards”.