Shetland crofters and farmers are set to get a purpose-built slaughterhouse at the Staney Hill north of Lerwick and an improved livestock mart next door, paid for with 100 per cent grants from Shetland Islands Council totalling £845,000.
The new small slaughterhouse for the Shetland Abattoir Co-operative Limited will cost around £377,000 and will be suitable for killing cattle, pigs and sheep. The co-op will also buy the existing small sheep slaughterhouse at Laxfirth for £12,500 to use at peak times.
The company hopes to kill 5,500 sheep and 150 cattle in the first year, rising by 18 per cent a year for sheep and 10 per cent for cattle.
After a radical rethink, the Shetland Livestock Marketing Group has separated itself from its abattoir co-op and will now focus on livestock and meat sales and marketing at the Marts, ceasing all involvement in the slaughtering business.
The group is in line for a £407,000 council grant, using £220,000 to upgrade the existing Marts and buy equipment, including a freezer unit and refrigerated lorry, and a further £127,000 to run a marketing office and develop sales on the internet and through specialists.
The ambitious new plans come just months after the marketing group came close to being sunk by bad debt from lamb sales to Faroe and to a local butcher who ceased trading.
Councillors on the SIC development committee will consider the two major investments on Thursday with a recommendation of approval from their officials.
The use of public money has become possible under EU rules brought in to aid businesses struggling as a result of the global financial crisis. The council’s hands were previously tied by strict state aid rules but those have been relaxed for this year only to allow 100 per cent grants up to £450,000 to companies in difficulty, if they meet the EU’s criteria.
The council is currently investing heavily in agriculture, having been criticised for treating it as the poor relation to the favoured fishing industry in the islands.
In June the council granted £450,000 to Pure Shetland Lamb to upgrade its multi-species slaughterhouse at Boddam – but only once outstanding debts to crofters are paid off first. Councillors will be told on Thursday that so far 63 claims have been lodged, seeking around £40,000 from owners Magnie Geordie Smith and his son George.
Creditors have until the end of this month to come forward with claims and the council has appointed a lawyer to act as arbiter in deciding if they are valid. No money will be advanced to Pure Shetland Lamb until the issue is resolved, and all the other pre-conditions have been satisfied.