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Stock stop . . . Alliance Smithfield's sheep and lamb processing is expected to finish at the end of July, when there is likely to be a shutdown for maintenance. Sheep and lamb processing will recommence in early November. PHOTO: ALLIED PRESS FILES

by Chris Tobin

South Canterbury and North Otago’s big meat processing companies will soon scale down operations for winter maintenance.

Alliance Smithfield’s sheep and lamb processing is expected to finish at the end of July, when there is likely to be a shutdown for maintenance. Sheep and lamb processing will recommence in early November.

“Venison processing finished in early May and will come back on at the end of June,” acting plant manager Ivan Docherty said.

“We are currently operating two chains and processing four days a week.”

He said this was expected to increase when Alliance Group’s Lorneville plant in Southland closed for annual maintenance within the next week.

plant manager Bruce McNaught said the plant would soon go into a shutdown period to allow for seasonal maintenance and to complete some capital projects.

“From a production point of view, the investment in upskilling some of the existing workforce, as well as training new personnel early in the season, paid dividends.

“We had three lamb chains operational at the start of December, and were then able to move people over to beef processing as we scaled back our lamb capacity when the flows came off. This improved our efficiency and overall throughput at the plant.

“It has been a good year for the Pareora plant.

“On the health and safety front we are showing year-on-year improvements and we put a big focus on early intervention and wellbeing of our people.”

In April, Silver Fern Farms reported a net profit before tax of $2.4million for the 2018 financial year. Silver Fern Farms is New Zealand’s biggest meat processor, with 14 plants around the country, half owned by Chinese company Shanghai Maling.

The after-tax result for the period was a net profit of $900,000. This reversed an after-tax loss of $5.6million in 2017.

Mr Docherty said Alliance Smithfield had a successful recruitment drive this season but still had a number of vacancies for suitable people, particularly in the lamb boning area.

“At the moment, we have 450 staff and that will increase to 480 when the venison processing begins again.”

Last November, Alliance Group announced a net profit of $6.6million for the year ending September 2018, down from $14.4million in the previous year. Meanwhile, further south at Alliance Pukeuri, plant manager Phil Shuker said sheep processing finished two months ago but the plant had since been busy processing beef to full capacity, seven days a week.

“We anticipate our annual shut-down for maintenance will be at the end of June or the beginning of July.

“The new season is expected to begin at the end of July and we will be recruiting for 100 to 200 new seasonal employees.”

The plant at present employs 600 people.