26th May 2018
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Mutton-drying factory plan shelved

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Plans to build a mutton-drying factory near Lerwick for a Faroese company have been shelved following loss of contact with the Faroese businessman behind the venture.

The creation of an important new outlet for unwanted cast ewes unexpectedly stalled after Daniel Thomsen allegedly failed to pay for a shipment of Shetland lamb – a £48,000 debt which nearly bankrupted the Shetland Live­stock Marketing Group (SLMG). Since then, repeated attempts to contact him have been unsuccessful.

Shetland Islands Council had teamed up with SLMG and the Faroe Food Company to build a large factory over 200 feet long beside the road into the Shetland Marts at Staney Hill. Planning permission was granted a year ago.

The specially designed drying shed and cutting and packing station would only have operated a few months of the year, producing wind-dried mutton, which the Faroese call skerpikjot. The meat was known in Shetland as vivda but the curing practice died out a century ago. The Faroese still value the meat with a ready market existing in the islands and among the estimated 15,000 islanders exiled in Denmark.

Considerable preparatory work was done by engineers and council officials amid hopes that Faroe Food would land a food processing and marketing grant from the Scottish government to get the venture off the ground. SIC head of economic development Neil Grant said around £15,000 has been spent on the venture and Mr Thomsen’s company was expected to invest substantial cap­ital itself.

Since the debt problem arose Mr Thomsen has not been traced by SLMG despite debt collectors being hired to track him. Nothing has been said publicly about the fate of the vivda factory venture but this week Mr Grant confirmed the problems and Mr Thomsen’s failure to respond. “We can’t take it any further until he gets in contact with us again,” he said. “As far as I can see it’s not going to hap­pen.”

“It offered quite a good opportunity for the agricultural sector up here to gain an outlet for a stock that they otherwise wouldn’t have an outlet for but at the end of the day we can’t take the project forward. There needs to be a developer and in this case the developer seems to have backed off the project.”

The idea of reviving dried mutton grew out of research and experimentation led by Karl Simpson who was manager of SLMG at the time.

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