22 Oct 2013

Shrinking sheep flock erodes fellmonger

9:01 am on 22 October 2013

Falling sheep numbers in the North Island have helped seal the fate of Silver Fern Farms skin processing plant at Shannon.

The meat co-operative has confirmed the plant will close at the end of this week, with the loss of more than 80 jobs, following its sale to the skin processing and rendering company, Lowe Corporation.

The Shannon fellmongery, which opened in 1982, has been processing the skins from Silver Fern's three North Island sheepmeat plants.

Instead they'll be sent to Lowe Corporation's more modern facility at Tomoana in Hastings.

Silver Fern Farms chief operating officer , Kevin Winders, says it's a straight matter of economics.

Lowe's managing director Andy Lowe, says while the Shannon closure means will be redundancies there, the move will also safeguard jobs and stop more skin processing going off-shore.

The Lowe Corporation employs about 90 workers at its Hastings fellmongery.

Silver Fern has set up a support centre to help the Shannon staff deal with the redundancies.

A Meatworkers Union official, Roger Middlemass, says Silver Fern Farms is one of the better employers in the meat industry and has handled the closure humanely, but he says it's not going to be easy for the workers to find new jobs.

The Lowe Corporation hasn't yet made any commitment to take Shannon workers at its Hastings plant.