Silver Fern Farms has warned suppliers that for the season to date the ovine kill is 8% behind the same stage last year.
Farmers already facing up to six weeks delay getting stock killed are being warned to prepare for a longer than usual season as the meat industry continues to struggle with staffing shortages.
Silver Fern Farms has warned suppliers that for the season to date the ovine kill is 8% behind the same stage last year and bovine by 3%.
“Early indications show that for most stock classes it will not be until July before we will catch up with current backlogs,” chief executive Simon Limmer told suppliers in the newsletter.
Just how late will depend on any impact of Omicron.
Current indicative North Island delays for beef are five to six weeks and for ovine three to six weeks.
On current trends in a month’s time, Limmer warns these could blow out to six to eight weeks for beef and four to eight weeks for ovine.
Current delays are slightly better in the South Island at three to four weeks for beef and one to four weeks for ovine, but these could extend in a month to six to eight weeks for beef and ovine.
“We ask all farmers to recognise that you will unlikely get animals processed as timely as normal and no one group will be immune from this,” he said.
The processor is prioritising regions which are dry and loyal, fully shared suppliers, but with more than 100mm of rain falling on some of the driest parts of the country at the weekend, it will help ease some pressure.
Limmer said SFF is still working with the Government to source seasonal workers, while also highlighting the added risk to the sector from an Omicron outbreak.
Plants have covid management protocols, including using rapid antigen tests to minimise the risk of the virus spreading.
An attendance and retention incentive scheme has been introduced and workers are being upskilled to cover vital roles.
Despite this, Limmer said production is focused on volume throughput as opposed to value cuts.
He described last week’s Government announcement of staggered reopening dates of the border as a “mixed bag”.
“On one hand, many will celebrate being able to meet their loved ones again, and our sales teams are planning their next trips into our markets to have those critical face-to-face interactions with our customers,” he said.
But it appears these changes are too late to have much of an impact this season.
“On the other hand, the timeline for allowing overseas workers across the border here appears too late to have an impact for us this peak season,” he said.
“Nevertheless, we are working hard behind the scenes to see if we can get earlier access to overseas labour and will continue working with government as they announce their immigration rebalance, which will have implications for our workforce going forward into future seasons.”