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Oamaru Meats. PHOTO: ALLIED PRESS FILES

Oamaru Meats has started up again with 80% of the staff it had to lay off last year.

The meat processing plant was shut down in mid-September after its permission to send beef into China was suspended.

The Chinese government took that action because beef fat packaging was not up to standard, Oamaru Meats director Richard Thorp said.

About 140 staff were stood down while the company, owned by China’s BX Foods, worked with New Zealand and Chinese authorities to reinstate export access.

That was achieved in early December, but the company said it would take a number of weeks to re-hire staff and it was scheduled to resume operating on January 6.

Meanwhile, 40 had found alternative employment at the Alliance Group’s Pukeuri plant.

Mr Thorp said Oamaru Meats was seeking 120 to 130 staff.

He told the Oamaru Mail this week there had been “a good return of staff”.

“Probably 80% of the people we had on our books have returned. We’re very pleased about that.

“We’re building skills and getting the factory settled down.

“We’ve also been well supported by our farmer suppliers. We’re really appreciative.”

The plant was always keen to find more good workers, Mr Thorp said.

During the shut-down, documents, processes and procedures had been reviewed to ensure the packaging problem would not happen again, he said.