Plant problems still unresolved

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Alliance Pukeuri sheep and lamb chain employees are no closer to resuming work, in spite of the plant passing a ministry audit.

Alliance Group general manager of processing Kerry Stevens said the company was advised late last week that the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) audit had been successful, but was awaiting final confirmation from MPI that the plant’s certification had been restored.

MPI acting director-general Scott Gallacher said the plant “had two separate and distinct management problems”.

“The first, in early July, related to them incorrectly exporting a small part of a consignment to China from a facility that was not listed by the Chinese authorities,” he said.

“The second, (a) later problem, arose due to Alliance not labelling product in accordance with Chinese requirements.

“The Chinese authorities are aware of both problems.

“MPI suspended certification for Pukeuri after the first problem was uncovered and reinstated it after satisfying itself that appropriate corrective actions had been put in place by Alliance.

“When the second problem occurred, we again suspended certification and conducted an audit prior to deciding that certification could be reinstated,” he said.

“The Chinese authorities were subsequently advised of MPI’s decision in mid-August.

“MPI has been working very hard to ensure the plant remedies its deficient practices and puts in place the most appropriate systems so these situations do not occur again.”

Mr Gallacher said MPI was also “‘investigating whether any of these problems arose because the plant breached its obligations and responsibilities under the regulatory framework”.

“We’re in discussions with the Chinese authorities in relation to the means of lifting Pukeuri’s export listing suspension,” he said.

Pukeuri workers on the sheep and lamb chain have now been off work for about five weeks.

Since the Pukeuri site temporarily ceased processing sheep and lambs, the stock have been sent to sister plant Smithfield in Timaru, which has enabled the company to continue to service its customers in China.

By Jacquie Webby