Sunday, March 3, 2024

Meat processors juggle throughput

Neal Wallace
Farmers are waiting up to three weeks for space to get stock killed as meat companies juggle throughput, labour shortages and access to shipping containers.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Demand for sheepmeat capacity in the North Island is similar to last year, but SFF is watching demand in the South Island closely.

Farmers are waiting up to three weeks for space to get stock killed as meat companies juggle throughput, labour shortages and access to shipping containers.

In the North Island the waiting time for beef is three weeks and two weeks for lambs and ewes, which reflects high early-season stock flows.

In the South Island farmers are waiting about 10 days for lambs and ewes and a week for beef.

There is no delay for deer.

Alliance Group manager of livestock and shareholder services Danny Hailes says exporters are balancing capacity with freezing space, container and shipping availability.

“We are balancing inflows with outflows so we do not get to a point of having to drop our killing days or restrict processing,” Hailes said.

Alliance is giving space priority to shareholders and Hailes says this has encouraged some suppliers to become shareholders.

The co-operative continues to accept all species for processing, including ewes.

Lorneville and Smithfield plants will be at full capacity within two weeks and extra shifts were being employed at Dannevirke and Levin.

Hailes says a shortage of labour is an issue but Alliance has had some relief with the arrival of Pacific island seasonal workers.

It is not unusual for delays at this time of the year and Hailes says warnings it was possible were forecast early.

Fortunately, most of the country has plenty of feed, although conditions are starting to dry in the Wairarapa.

Silver Fern Farms supply chain manager Dan Boulton says the company is short 550 workers across its network, which will impact its processing capacity and could mean not all cuts are recovered from carcases all the time.

“This will have a real impact on our ability to run plants at normal speeds,” Boulton said.

Demand for sheepmeat capacity in the North Island is similar to last year, but SFF is watching demand in the South Island closely, although a later season means stock flows are slower than normal.

It is unlikely SFF will start the third chain at its Finegand and Pareora plants before Christmas.

Boulton says shipping capacity serving NZ has declined 20% in recent months as, in a repeat of last season, ships miss calling at ports to maintain schedules or drop schedules all-together.

“It hasn’t got any better,” he said.

SFF has secured more cool storage, but Boulton says that will not have too significant an impact.

He urges suppliers to work closely with their agents about getting stock killed.

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