SFF flagship plant opens

Coromandel MP Scott Simpson (left), Prime Minister John Key, Silver Ferns Farms chairman Eoin Garden, chief executive Keith Cooper and chief operating officer Kevin Winders at the opening of the new beef-processing operation at Te Aroha. Photo by Silver Fern Farms.
Coromandel MP Scott Simpson (left), Prime Minister John Key, Silver Ferns Farms chairman Eoin Garden, chief executive Keith Cooper and chief operating officer Kevin Winders at the opening of the new beef-processing operation at Te Aroha. Photo by Silver Fern Farms.

A $67 million investment to commission a state-of-the-art beef-processing operation at Te Aroha is testament to Silver Fern Farms' strong confidence in the sector, chairman Eoin Garden says.

The company's Te Aroha plant was devastated by a fire in December 2010, which destroyed the slaughter area, boning room and chillers.

Last week, Prime Minister John Key officially opened the new flagship plant on the same site, watched by those associated with the rebuilding, including contractors, local government representatives, local iwi and members of the Te Aroha community.

Silver Fern Farms chief executive Keith Cooper spoke of the importance of the plant, not only to farmer-suppliers in the surrounding rural area but also to the local community.

The fact the plant would be fully operational ahead of the new season was ''welcome news'' for the town, with the prospect it would employ up to 380 staff when operating at full capacity.

Throughout the rebuilding process, the company tried to provide alternative options for staff whose livelihoods were affected by the fire, making positions available at neighbouring plants and providing accommodation supplements in the early stages. The significant capital spending had also provided positive spin-offs to the local economy.

The plant incorporated the latest meat-processing technology, including sophisticated traceability and yield collection systems.

The new design reflected the company's focus on plant economics and best-practice processing, and that eco-efficiency and sustainability were ''top of mind'' considerations, Mr Cooper said.

''The rebuild gave us the opportunity to review the environmental footprint of our operation. Our focus is improving environmental efficiency while reducing costs through better use of resources and reduction of waste.

''As a result, the plant sets a new industry benchmark in line with global customer requirements - it uses significantly less electricity and water per head and discharges less effluent per head processed,'' he said.

The company was grateful to those suppliers who stood by it and persevered while it got the new plant up and running.

The plant served suppliers in the Te Aroha, Morrinsville, Matamata, Waitoa and greater Waikato area.