Fifteen trained meat workers arrived from Samoa this week, a further 18 will arrive within two weeks and visas have been lodged for a further 30.
The first of about 60 trained meat workers from Pacific Islands have arrived to start work at plants operated by Silver Fern Farms (SFF).
SFF chief people officer Matt Ballard said 15 arrived from Samoa this week, a further 18 will arrive within two weeks and visas have been lodged for a further 30.
He said MPI assisted SFF with processing visas for the skilled workers, many of whom have previously worked for the meat processor, following the reopening of New Zealand borders.
As Omicron has spread through the country, primary processors, including meat companies, have struggled to maintain throughput as staff fall ill or have to isolate due to infections within their households.
He said the initial immigration limits during the covid pandemic and an inability to recruit New Zealanders has forced companies to reduce further processing, which has an economic impact.
Given the inability to find staff, he fears the Government’s subsequent intention to reset immigration settings could further reduce the ability to add value and improve productivity, one of the Government’s stated economic aims.
“In our industry productivity is all about having enough people to keep the chains rolling so everyone can function efficiently,” he said.
SFF has previously said it is short 550 workers across all plants which is hindering its ability to add value to products.
“It is very hard to do that if you do not have enough labour capacity to operate optimally,” he said.
Ballard said the skilled migrant workers will work throughout its network, including plants they have worked before, and is still timely given the processing season is going to be prolonged.