Fishing rivals buy Tauranga mussel company

Rival fishing firms are to buy a struggling mussel processing company in Tauranga, saving the jobs of 20 full-time and 200 casual workers.

Sanford and Sealord have agreed to buy North Island Mussel Processors, which has been in receivership, and plan to have it back in operation by the end of this month.

Sealord and Sanford were originally part of a partnership in the company along with and Greenshell New Zealand before it went into receivership several weeks ago.

Sanford said Greenshell failed to pay $1.2 million in processing fees and other debts.

Now they will each take a 50% shareholding in a new company, North Island Mussels, which will own the Tauranga-based plant and the Coromandel farming operations. Mr Stuart says the plant will start operations at end of the month.

'Seamless supply' ensured

Sanford managing director Eric Barratt says the move will help ensure a seamless supply of the seafood.

"Greenshell mussels are an important part of New Zealand's aquaculture industry. They're now being exported to over 65 countries and regularity of supply, quality of supply, is valuable."

The partners will work with receivers McGrathNicol and existing staff to make sure the plant is up and running for the start of this season's harvest.

Sealord chief executive Graham Stuart says his company will process all its own mussels this season through the Tauranga site.

He says the company's farms appeared to have overcome problems in recent years with a barnacle infestation and with climate change slowing mussel growth, and is expecting a bumper harvest.

When the plant opened in Tauranga in 2009 it was the first in the world to operate an automated mussel-opening machine.

Next story in Business: Heat-saving cover in running for awards