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Last year, the co-operative unveiled plans to house the new facility in a refurbished beef building at its Lorneville plant but it has revised those plans, saying it aims to deliver improved efficiencies and value for farmer shareholders.
The new $15.2million plan includes design innovations, improved handling facilities, enhanced configuration, increased slaughter-board size, a wider boning room and an bigger offal area. The plant will also be capable of accommodating technological developments when they become available.
Alliance Group chief executive David Surveyor said this greater investment reinforced the co-operative’s commitment to the New Zealand deer industry and would ensure it had world-class modern facilities, reflecting its position as a leading and innovative processor.
"It also demonstrates the company is continuing to deliver on our strategy of investing in the future, lowering our cost base and delivering higher returns to our farmer shareholders," Mr Surveyor said.
The decision underlined Alliance’s confidence in the deer industry and the co-op had several marketing initiatives in progress, Mr Surveyor said.
"While the New Zealand venison market has traditionally depended on Germany and the European game season and the euro, Alliance Group is now moving into the US and UK markets with value-added propositions," he said.
"A major driver of this is our Pure South programme to increase out-of-season chilled consumption, coupled with a general growth in seasonal chilled venison — resulting in a more diverse market and currency mix."
The new processing facility is expected to be operational next year. In the meantime, deer will continue to be processed at Alliance’s Makarewa plant near Invercargill and Smithfield plant in Timaru. The Smithfield plant would remain a vital part of Alliance Group’s venison processing operations, Mr Surveyor said.
Alliance Group general manager processing Kerry Stevens said at present the venison operation consisted of a day and night shifts, involving 30 staff per shift.
The new plant would employ about the same number of staff but would process deer more efficiently. At present the plant could process about 1800 deer a week at its peak, but the newly configured plant would take this number to more than 2000 deer per week.