Tuesday, 01 February 2022 12:55

Omicron planning well underway

Written by  David Anderson
Alliance Group and Silver Fern Farm employ more than 12,000 workers between them at the peak of the meat processing season. Alliance Group and Silver Fern Farm employ more than 12,000 workers between them at the peak of the meat processing season.

The country's major meat processors say they are well down the road in planning how to mitigate the Omicron variant's impact.

A report circulated by the Auckland DHB last month warns that once Omicron arrived it could see 50,000 cases a day and the outbreak could continue for between 12 and 16 weeks. This lines up with the international experience: during January, New South Wales recorded an average of 46,970 new cases a day over one week.

"Like all New Zealand businesses, Alliance Group is acutely aware of the risk of Covid-19, in particular, Omicron," the co-operative's communications manager Renee Walker told Rural News.

"We are committed to doing everything we can to protect the health and wellbeing of our people. Alliance Group is processing livestock under protocols, which define s strict set of rules and requirements to ensure the sector's continuing operations do not contribute to the spread of Covid-19."

Walker says this includes maintaining physical distancing, ensuring increased cleaning/disinfection of processing areas and using personal protective equipment (PPE).

"All visitors to Alliance plants and offices, including Alliance staff and contractors moving between sites, must be fully vaccinate and show their 'My Vaccine Pass'," she adds.

"We have also written to our transport providers to ask them to confirm that their drivers are vaccinated. Drivers are required to carry proof of this to carry proof of this to enter our sites."

Meanwhile, Walker adds that the meat processor is continuing to encourage Alliance's workforce to get vaccinations - including boosters.

"Everyone on our leadership team is fully vaccinated. We have risk profiles in place, and we have supported on-site vaccination initiatives across all plants," she explains.

"While we hope the measures we have in place will prevent our plants being impacted by Covid-19, we have had contingency plans in place for some time." Walker believes that Alliance's extensive plant network across the country and the lesson of the past two years means it is well placed to mitigate the impact of any disruption caused by Covid-19."

Silver Fern Farms (SFF) chief executive Simon Limmer told Rural News that the company is expecting it won't be immune to the impacts of Omicron currently being experienced offshore, and that it had started planning early.

"We're drawing on the range of protocols and controls developed through our experience managing Covid to date, which will help us to minimise any disruption," he says.

SFF chief executive Simon Limmer FBTW

SFF chief executive Simon Limmer says Omicron is impacting overseas workforces through 30 to 40% absenteeism and this will present challenges with SFF's workforce already around 550 workers short.

"As of 11.59pm, Sunday, January 23, we've moved our sites to our operating framework under the red light setting. In many respects, this is business as usual for our site staff as we have always taken a precautionary approach to our operations irrespective of the alert level."

Limmer says SFF's priority is the safety and welfare of its staff.

"But as a market-led organisation we also have a big focus on delivering to our customers through the constraints in which we will be operating."

He says that in addition to the protocols and controls it has developed, SFF have been fortunate to have trialled the use of Rapid Antigen Testing with around 30 other businesses last year.

"Although not as accurate as diagnostic PCR testing, they are fast, and will be another helpful tool to support the business and our staff to operate safely through any disruption."

Meanwhile, Limmer says, offshore, Omicron is impacting workforces through 30 to 40% absenteeism, and this will present challenges with SFF's workforce already around 550 workers short already.

"As we are constrained by the historic low unemployment rate here, we've been asking the Government to reconsider giving good employers access to overseas workers to support the performance of the overall New Zealand economy."

He told Rural News that SFF's network of processing facilities does provide the company the option to move animals between plants as Omicron moves around the country.

"Our focus will be moving animals off farm, although at times this may come at the expense of value," Limmer explains.

"Our priority will be our fully shared and valued suppliers, as well as prioritising areas with animal welfare risk. We're asking all suppliers to reach out to their livestock reps early."

More like this

50 GHG workshops in 30 days

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) has joined forces with Silver Fern Farms, Alliance, Greenlea Premier Meats, ANZCO and Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ) to deliver 50 Greenhouse Gas workshops over the course of 30 days.

The Landing - sequestering on site

Covid-19 has slowed some carbon emission initiatives at The Landing in Northland, but reforestation is continuing at pace, with more than 10,000 native trees planted in the past year alone.

Fruitful change?

OPINION: Your canine crusader notes that meat company Silver Fern Farms has undergone quite a refresh over the last few years.

More support needed for rural communities

The Hauora Taiwhenua Rural Health Network is welcoming a government announcement to widen the prescription criteria for the Covid-19 antiviral medication Paxlovid.

JV paying off

Kotahi, founded by Fonterra and Silver Fern Farms, works with exporters and shipping containers to ensure an efficient supply chain.

National

Machinery & Products

New disc cultivator launched

Väderstad has introduced a new disc cultivator – the Carrier XT 425-625 – featuring rotating disc axles, that optimizes results…

JD unlocks its digital system

As a long-term advocate of digital technology, John Deere has taken the route of mass data capture, rather than concentrating…

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

The Hound

Fruitful change?

OPINION: Your canine crusader notes that meat company Silver Fern Farms has undergone quite a refresh over the last few…

All for show?

OPINION: The Hound notes that Fonterra is cashing in on the curent government's largesse with taxpayer money.

» Connect with Rural News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter