It sounds like the death rattle is signalled for the former Fairton meat processing plant near Ashburton.
SFF staff, shareholders and executives gathered at Pareora last week for the official opening of the refurbished $7 million venison processing plant, which began processing in November last year.
It was built to replace the SFF’s Islington plant on leased land in a business park at Belfast, Christchurch.
SFF chief executive Dean Hamilton says the company decided last May to close the Islington operation and focus on the new venison plant at Pareora.
“Seven million was spent on the plant and upgrading the chillers so they could handle more animals,” he said.
Hamilton stressed the relevance of the Pareora plant to the local Timaru community, and said despite the building dating back to 1903, inside was a modern processing business of the highest standards.
“At the peak of the season the plant employs 800 people. $40m are spent on wages and $27m on local goods and services.
“Livestock is sourced from 2000 farms and $100m a year is spent on animals to support the plant. $200m in product goes out of this plant alone, every year.”
Hamilton emphasised the meat co-op’s purpose -- to “sustainably and profitably add value to New Zealand’s grass fed red meat”.
“When we go into markets like the United States and Germany we are selling grass fed natural red meat. That is our point of difference and our clear purpose.
“We are competing with all other types of protein, so we need to think of ourselves as a food company,” he said.
Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean and Silver Fern Farms co-chairman Rob Hewitt officially opened the new Pareora venison plant.
Hewitt said the Pareora plant contributed at least $200m to the South Canterbury economy each year.
“The efficiencies and benefits from the new venison plant are going to go a lot wider that just SFF. They will spread out into the community and NZ as well,” he said.
“Now that Pareora is multi-species (venison, beef and lamb) we can leverage the opportunities for our communities and the people here and for our shareholders and suppliers.”