Tuesday, 19 May 2020 09:30

Meat processing back to normal soon

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
Meat companies are working hard to achieve normal processing capacity. Meat companies are working hard to achieve normal processing capacity.

Farmers are hoping that processing capacity at meat plants will return to normal within a month.

Federated Farmers president Katie Milne says the meat companies are working hard to achieve normal processing capacity.

“The works assure us they are catching up fast and will be close to normal soon – sheep much sooner than beef,” Milne told Rural News.

“The North Island is further through their kill than the South Island. Hopefully by mid-June things will be near right again.”

Covid-19 meat processing protocols, which require physical distancing between employees to prevent the spread of the virus, reduced the industry’s processing capacity in level 4 by about 50% for sheep and lamb and 30% for beef.

Longer wait times, up to six weeks in some cases, put additional pressure on winter feed resources as farmers were forced to hold on to stock for longer.

Alliance chief executive David Surveyor has told farmers that the company is continuing to increase processing capacity across the network.

“Our plants are running overtime, extended shifts and at weekends,” he told suppliers in an email last week. “We are also transporting livestock from the South Island to the North Island to ease the pressure in the south.”

Surveyor says the co-op is on track to reach its Alert Level 3 target of over 90% capacity for ovine and over 95% for bovine across the network.

“The Meat Industry Association is working on a new processing protocol for Alert Level 2 and there is an expectation this will enable us to increase capacity further,” he says.

Meanwhile, Alliance will be offering a deer supply contract from July through to December 2020. 

Surveyor says this will provide farmers with some certainty, helping manage risk during significant market uncertainty.

He says Alliance has been responsibly managing its inventory and sales.

“However, there does appear to be some inventory build-up in global markets and we expect this to impact sales prices in the short to medium term.

“We continue to have long term confidence in the deer industry,” Surveyor says.

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