Busy meatworks boost retail

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South Canterbury freezing works are at capacity, boosting Christmas spending in Timaru’s central business district.

Alliance’s Smithfield plant is killing six days a week, while Silver Fern Farms’ Pareora plant is also operating at capacity, including its third chain shift, due to increased stock levels coming through the plants.

Timaru retailers spoken to by The Courier say the two local freezing works play a major role in the economy, not just because of the numbers of staff employed, but also the ancillary services involved in the plants’ operations – including transport companies and trades.

The timing of the works reaching peak capacity was hugely important in terms of Christmas spending, particularly with having two plants in the region.

Mac Shaw Menswear owner Grant Shaw said he’d experienced the best October in 15 years, November was on a par, and December trading was up on last year.

Other retailers he had spoken to seemed quite happy, with a feeling the local economy was doing well.

Aoraki Development operations manager Di Hay said the two freezing works in the Timaru area were big employers, collectively with more than 1300 staff employed at the moment.

“So when they’re busy with production and high staff numbers that’s good for the local economy in terms of potential spending by those staff.”

She said as a major food-producing region, it was generally a busy time of the year for South Canterbury, and the Christmas buzz was also taking to the shops with people buying gifts or socialising around town.

Dry weather was a concern with farmers having to destock, but good prices for meat would help lessen the impact of the decision, she said.

Silver Fern Farms communications manager Justin Courtney said the company’s Pareora plant had all its chains running, including the third chain shift from 3.20pm to 10pm, due to more stock coming through.

Mr Courtney said this was due to the conditions prompting farmers to send more stock to the meatworks in December.

“We have lifted processing capacity at Pareora by bringing on a full third chain to better service farmers in the upper and central South Island.”

The plant employed up to 800 staff at peak season and had also taken on extra stock processing after the company’s Fairton plant, in Ashburton, closed earlier this year, he said.

Nationally, Silver Fern’s plants were processing more than 20,000 cattle, 180,000 sheep and 3500 deer each week and the company was predicted to spend more than $230million on livestock alone in December, he said.

“It will be our biggest livestock month ever and the largest we have seen since April 2011.”

Alliance Group’s Smithfield plant was also “particularly busy”, plant manager Nigel Cuthill said.

The plant currently employed more than 500 staff and was processing sheep and deer from farmers six days a week.

“[It] is great news for our staff, farmers and the local community. We are among the largest employers in the district and proud of our contribution to the area,” Mr Cuthill said.