THE FARMER friendly supermarket Morrisons is being touted as a possible saviour for the threatened Hall's of Broxburn pigmeat plant, if current owners Vion cannot themselves be persuaded to give the loss-making business a reprieve.
Last week's shock announcement from Vion – which claimed that the Broxburn plant's inefficiencies were costing it a whopping £79,000 a day – prompted an extraordinary amount of political activity, with Scots finance minister John Swinney and then First Minister Alex Salmond bustling off to Broxburn in defence of its 1700 at-risk jobs.
However, for Scotland's already embattled pig producers, the big question was who might, if Vion's three-month 'consultation' ends as expected in closure, take on the processing of the 8000 or so pigs that currently go through Halls each week.
QMS chief Jim McLaren sought to quash fears that fully three-quarters the total Scottish pig kill would have to go south of the border, insisting that there were another 18 abattoirs in Scotland capable of processing pigs.
"We need to keep our feet on the ground. We are only at the start of a process which will last three months and possibly more. That will give us time to look at the options."
A buy-out by Morrisons has since emerged as one of those options.
The retail chain, which has been adding to its in-house processing power of late, and which reportedly has £200 million set-aside to further increase 'vertical integration', refused to discuss a bid for Hall's – but its spokesman also refused to rule it out.
Observers noted that Morrisons has already bought one English plant from Vion, and has already demonstrated its enthusiasm for in-house processing by acquiring meat plants in Turriff in Aberdeenshire, Colne in Lancashire and Spalding in Lincolnshire.
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Source: Argentine Beef Packers S.A.
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