This spring will bring job cuts for some of the 169 staff at the Scottish Salmon Company (SSC) in the Western Isles, as the firm announced a review of its Stornoway harvesting and processing operations last week (January 8).
In a statement issued to FoodManufacture.co.uk, the company said: “A consultation process has begun with staff to explore options to redeploy staff where possible or offer assistance to find alternative employment.”
A spokeswoman for SSC said management was unable to estimate the number of jobs that would be cut at this stage.
The company’s expansion plans have been hampered by its inability to secure planning permission for new sites or extended capacity in the timescales it had thought possible.
SSC said: “Without consistent year-on-year volumes from a balanced farming operation, the processing facility cannot be operated efficiently.”
The company’s problems have been compounded by the health of its fish, which were affected by amoebic gill disease in 2012. This naturally occurring amoeba is exacerbated by warm weather.
‘Critical time last summer’
Stewart McLelland, SSC’s chief executive, said: “Like many in the industry, we were affected at a critical time last summer. This has impeded the growth of the salmon and impacted on the volumes available in 2013.”
The firm’s final blow came from “the uncharacteristically low market price for salmon in 2012”, which reduced its income.
“When combined with insufficient fish to process, this is another reason why we cannot operate Marybank, in the short term, without cutting jobs,” said McLelland.
SSC said it expected to have more volume towards the end of 2013 and 2014, when fish from its new site in the Highlands was ready to be harvested. It was also pursuing planning consents for other locations in the Western Isles and the mainland to secure production levels.
McLelland said: “We deeply regret this situation, but hope that we can reassure local communities that once more sites start to produce fish, we will once again have the volumes that make full production at Marybank and Arnish viable again.
The SSC currently employs more than 380 people in its operations along the west coast of Scotland. The company embarked on an investment plan to find 10 new sites in 2010. Two consents have been awarded in Highland and Argyll and SSC is currently consulting on planning applications in Harris and another in Argyll.
Police appeal for witnesses
In an unrelated incident, Grampian Police are appealing for witnesses to the theft of thousands of pounds worth of premium quality smoked salmon from a food processor in Buckie on the Moray Firth coast of Scotland last month.
The break-in occurred at Cluny Fish in Low Street, Buckie, between 10pm on Tuesday December 18 2012 and 7am on Wednesday December 19 2012.
A police statement said: “All of the salmon was in clear vacuum packs, however, some of it was in distinctive ‘Shetland Smokehouse Gravadlax’ packaging, which is produced mainly for export and is not readily available in the local area.”