Final protocols are still to be confirmed but level three restrictions should enable meat processing to be close to full production, helping address the backlog of stock waiting to be killed, which has blown out to six weeks, Alliance livestock and shareholder services general manager Danny Hailes says.
At level three social distancing between workers drops from 2m, to 1m.
That should allow throughput for sheep to rise from 50% to 90% of plant capacity and beef from 70% to 100%.
“That will be a huge and significant help to clear the backlog,” Hailes said.
“But the risk is still there and we still need to know what the rules are and determine what we have got to do to meet those new regulations.”
The Meat Industry Association, Beef + Lamb and Ministry for Primary Industries are still discussing details.
Hailes says once the protocol is agreed companies will need some time to reconfigure plants, which Alliance aims to do on Sunday and Anzac Day to be ready for Tuesday.
The feed issue is becoming acute ahead of winter in drought-hit areas of the North Island but also Southland where farmers have never really been ahead of feed demand since spring when grass growth was low and wet ground conditions delayed crop sowing.
They are now scrambling to try to build pasture and crop cover using nitrogen and sourcing supplementary feed before winter bites in what is shaping up to be a challenging few months.
Deane Carson of Agribusiness Consultants in Invercargill estimates farms on average have 10% to 20% less grass than they would like heading in to winter.
“If they head into winter with greater demand for feed and not a lot surplus winter feed it adds to the pressure.”