Pressure on supply chain affects meat

Alliance Group chief executive David Surveyor. Photo: supplied
Alliance Group chief executive David Surveyor. Photo: supplied
Meat companies are warning farmers to be prepared to hold on to livestock for longer as the Omicron outbreak begins to cause processing delays.

Covid-19 case numbers have skyrocketed in the past week putting pressure on supply chains as more and more staff have to self-isolate.

Alliance Group - which operates four plants in the lower South Island - confirmed that none of its staff had been on site while infectious, but chief executive David Surveyor said it was inevitable that the communities where it operated would be affected by Covid.

Across its network, Alliance had rising levels of absenteeism as community levels of Covid saw "a number of" its staff staying home to isolate or look after children because schools were closed.

That was impacting on plant configurations and capacity, Mr Surveyor said.

The meat company was running according to strict guidelines, which included physical distancing, temperature checking, use of rapid antigen tests (Rats) and engaging with government and health authorities.

Alliance had been planning for the situation and expected disruption to processing over the coming weeks.

It would also be moving more livestock across the group’s network to process animals as quickly as possible, he said.

Farmers were being asked to be prepared to hold livestock for longer due to processing delays.

"Processing times will vary depending on the level of community outbreaks in each region and livestock mix requirements.

"We are of course also talking to customers about the impact on supply chains," he said.

Silver Fern Farms - which operates four plants in the lower South Island - confirmed that it had not had any confirmed cases in the lower South Island processing plants.

Fonterra would not confirm whether it had positive cases at its southern factories. But a spokesman for the dairy giant said that given the widespread nature of the current outbreak and Fonterra’s large employee base, it was not unexpected that it would have cases among its staff.

It had "robust" controls and contingencies in place to mitigate the risk of Covid to its operations and people, he said.

"We have strict precautions in place for managing cases, which includes critical workers only at our sites, shift bubbles, mask and other PPE use, temperature checks on arrival at work and the use of rapid antigen tests."

The outbreak was not causing issues with getting product to market, the spokesman said.