Sunday, March 3, 2024

Covid and supply chain issues slow processing

Neal Wallace
The meat processing season could be prolonged by up to 12 weeks by covid infections, supply chain disruptions and the dry weather in the south.
SFF chief supply chain officer Dan Boulton expects some disruption and the season to be longer than usual even though labour availability is likely to be marginally better than last season.
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Silver Fern Farms chief supply chain officer Dan Boulton says priority is being given to farmers facing dry conditions with stock being trucked to plants with spare capacity.

The meat processing season could be prolonged by up to 12 weeks by covid infections, supply chain disruptions and the dry weather in the south.

Silver Fern Farms chief supply chain officer Dan Boulton told suppliers omicron has reduced its available processing capacity more than expected.

“To date the processing impact from omicron has been felt similarly across both the North Island and South Island networks, however at this point South Island communities are experiencing a longer tail to omicron.”

Seven weeks into the omicron outbreak, beef capacity across individual SFF plants has been between 60% and 81%, sheep 63% to 86% and venison 77% to 100%.

Boulton says priority is being given to farmers facing dry conditions with stock being trucked to plants with spare capacity.

But that too is being hampered by limited space on Interisland ferries.

Fewer cuts are being recovered during processing to maximise throughput speed, more night shifts and Saturdays are being worked, livestock agents are arranging markets for store stock and cull cows are being grazed before processing later in the season.

Boulton says it has extended incentives and benefits for staff and the industry is working with the Government to get access to foreign labour which has been approved in limited numbers.

“While these workers have been warmly welcomed, they won’t be an immediate silver bullet for our current challenges as they only represent a relatively small amount of our total workforce and it is late in the season.”

Shipments of NZ beef and veal from January to end-March were 20% below the same period last year due to lower production associated with omicron.

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