Meat processing sector steps up to support cyclone-impacted rural communities

// Industry

The red meat processing sector is working hard to support cyclone-affected farmers by ensuring plants return to operation as soon as possible and providing assistance to rural communities.

image of ali and farmer

The AFFCO plant in Wairoa and Silver Fern Farms’ Dargaville plant have resumed processing while Ovation’s plant in Gisborne and Silver Fern Farms Pacific in Waipatu, Hawke’s Bay, are expected to restart in the coming weeks.

Sirma Karapeeva, chief executive of the Meat Industry Association (MIA), said the sector was focused on meeting the needs of farmers while ensuring the welfare of employees and the animals in its care.

A number of meat processing companies have also stepped up to provide significant cash and product donations to organisations on the ground and vulnerable communities.

“In the aftermath of the cyclone, companies worked hard to get in contact with their people and their farmers in the affected areas, to check on their welfare and best understand how they had been affected by the disaster.

“A fuller picture of Gabrielle’s impact will only emerge in time. In the meantime, meat processing companies are providing support where we can.

“A key focus for the sector has been moving livestock from sites impacted by the cyclone to ensure we maintain the high level of animal welfare that consumers and community expect of us.” 
Meat companies are working together to ensure there is processing capacity and logistics are co-ordinated.

Ms Karapeeva said processors were aware of the critical importance to farmers of continuing to meet their processing needs in these challenging times.

“A lot of farms have sustained significant damage and lost valuable grazing, fencing and water systems due to landslips. Access to many farms has been disrupted by the considerable damage to the road network and infrastructure.

“Processing companies are talking with farmers to discuss their individual circumstances and what support they need.

“In many cases, meat processing plants are the largest regional employers in the towns they are located. Our sector is an economic powerhouse for New Zealand, and we are committed to keeping on delivering for the economy and the country.”

A number of meat processing companies have also announced support packages for regional communities.

The Greenlea Foundation Trust has made a $1 million donation to the East Coast Rural Support Trust to help clean up and recovery operations, and the Greenlea Rescue Helicopter has been transporting people in need of urgent medical care in the cyclone-affected region to nearby hospitals and care facilities. In addition, a further $1 million has been earmarked for ongoing support in affected communities.

Alliance Group has donated $200,000 to the East Coast Rural Support Trust and launched a shareholder-supplier stock donation programme for farmers to donate lamb, sheep, cattle or deer, with the proceeds being donated to the Trust.

Meanwhile, AFFCO has donated $100,000 to the Wairoa Mayoral Relief Fund and distributed lamb to the community as well as providing water from a bore on site. The New Zealand Army also used the plant site to fly in emergency provisions, stored in the AFFCO dry stores and chillers, for distribution by the army and the council.

Silver Fern Farms has provided over 10 tonnes of product to those in need, including maraes, mosques, churches, fire stations, shelters for displaced persons, and isolated communities. The company is also co-ordinating helicopter drops to the most isolated areas of Rissington, Patoka and Tutira, helping get much-needed equipment and services to isolated communities.

Unaffected Silver Fern Farms farmers are also donating animals to Meat the Need and cash contributions to the Rural Support Trust when they have animals processed.

Sam McIvor, chief executive of Beef + Lamb New Zealand, said the fact that meat processors are working together will be reassuring to farmers but the most critical issue for isolated farmers is roading infrastructure. 

It’s absolutely imperative that bridges and roads are rapidly reinstated. East Coast farmers have said there is a 4-6 week window by which they need to get stock off before it places significant pressure on their feed covers as they set up for winter. They’re foremost concerned about animal welfare but cashflow is also an issue given some of the big repair bills they’re facing.

“We’ll continue our ongoing co-ordination with processors and advocating on behalf of farmers to ensure that restoring trucking access to isolated farms is prioritised.”


For more information, please contact Sam Halstead on 027 474 6065 (