Employees on the sheep and lamb processing chain at the Alliance Pukeuri site are one step closer to returning to work.
After almost four weeks of being in limbo following the suspension of the plant’s certification for export to China, Alliance Group has been advised that its Pukeuri site has successfully passed an audit undertaken by the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI).
Alliance Group general manager of processing Kerry Stevens said the company was pleased with the advice from MPI and that the situation is nearing an end.
“Alliance Group is keen to resume processing at Pukeuri as soon as possible,” he said.
“We are awaiting final confirmation from MPI that the certification has been restored.
“We are aware of speculation about the Pukeuri site, however, our first priority is to ensure (that) our employees can return to work at the earliest opportunity.”
Mr Stevens confirmed that Alliance Group had implemented a number of changes to its processes, including improving the checks on labelling requirements.
“The MPI audit outcome provides reassurance to the company that the changes it has made are robust,” he said.
A spokesperson for MPI said the audit covered systems, processes and the corrective actions put in place after the issue with labelling which led to MPI having to suspend certification.
“MPI has notified the Chinese authorities about the results of the audit,” the spokesperson said.
“When China updates its import permit list, MPI will be prepared to certify meat which the plant produces for China.”
The Pukeuri plant’s certification for China was suspended by MPI in July after a container was shipped to China containing cartons that were incorrectly labelled.
Chinese market access regulations require a label on both the inside and outside of the carton and the affected cartons were labelled on the outside only.
Mr Stevens said the issue related to labelling and not to the meat itself and the problems were caused by an administrative error by Alliance Group.
Since the Pukeuri site temporarily ceased processing sheep and lambs, they have been sent to sister plant Smithfield in Timaru which has enabled the company to continue to service its customers in China.
The suspension has affected around 240 employees at Pukeuri.