Ensuring meat processing plants are fully operational as soon as possible is vital for farmers’ recovery from Cyclone Gabrielle, says the Meat Industry Association.
The AFFCO plant in Wairoa and Silver Fern Farms’ Dargaville plant have resumed processing while Ovation’s plant in Gisborne and Silver Fern Farms Pacific in Waipatu, Hawke’s Bay, are expected to restart in the coming weeks.
Meat Industry Association (MIA) chief executive Sirma Karapeeva said the sector is focused on the needs of farmers while ensuring the welfare of employees and the animals in its care.
Some meat-processing companies have also stepped up to provide cash and product donations to organisations on the ground and vulnerable communities.
“In the aftermath of the cyclone, companies worked hard to get in contact with their people and their farmers in the affected areas, to check on their welfare and best understand how they had been affected by the disaster.
“A fuller picture of Gabrielle’s impact will only emerge in time. In the meantime, meat processing companies are providing support where we can.”
Karapeeva said a focus for the sector has been moving livestock from sites impacted by the cyclone “to ensure we maintain the high level of animal welfare that consumers and community expect of us”.
Meat companies are working together to ensure there is processing capacity and logistics are co-ordinated.
Karapeeva said processors are aware of the critical importance to farmers of continuing to meet their processing needs in these challenging times.
“A lot of farms have sustained significant damage and lost valuable grazing, fencing and water systems due to landslips. Access to many farms has been disrupted by the considerable damage to the road network and infrastructure.
“Processing companies are talking with farmers to discuss their individual circumstances and what support they need.”
Some meat-processing companies have also announced support packages for regional communities.
Beef + Lamb New Zealand chief executive Sam McIvor said the fact meat processors are working together will be reassuring to farmers but the most critical issue for isolated farmers is roading infrastructure.
“It’s absolutely imperative that bridges and roads are rapidly reinstated.
“East Coast farmers have said there is a four- to six-week window by which they need to get stock off before it places significant pressure on their feed covers as they set up for winter.
“They’re most concerned about animal welfare but cashflow is also an issue given some of the big repair bills they’re facing.
“We’ll continue our ongoing co-ordination with processors and advocating on behalf of farmers to ensure that restoring trucking access to isolated farms is prioritised.”