THOMAS Foods International chief executive officer Darren Thomas said the company had built in “redundancies” that could help cushion the blow and smooth the transition until its Murray Bridge plant is operational again, following last week’s fire.
In the aftermath of the blaze, livestock at the site was relocated to other properties owned by TFI, while Mr Thomas said stock in transit was taken back to its farm of origin.
He said the company would not move away from suppliers as it rebuilds.
“At any one stage we send stock from southern Vic to Tamworth, NSW, and we’ve sent stock from the Eyre Peninsula to Qld,” he said.
“Movement of livestock is our core competency. I envisage minimal disruption – our buyers are out there still buying livestock.”
Mr Thomas said the company would be able to redeploy production to its other processing plants, including Lobethal, to meet existing contracts, while some staff may also be relocated.
“We’re not at capacity at our plants and we can add on production,” he said.
TFI is the largest Australian-owned meat processor, while the Murray Bridge plant is one of the largest multi-species facilities nationwide.
Australian Meat Industry Council executive director Paul Sandercock said the temporary closure of the Murray Bridge facility would not have a major impact on domestic meat supply and prices, and he did not anticipate much impact at the producer level either.
“There may be some disruption until they get things sorted out but long-term, TFI will still maintain their relationships,” he said.
Mr Sandercock said he was also not too concerned about the industry potentially losing skilled workers.
“The company is working pretty hard to relocate as many people as possible,” he said. “TFI will want to keep good employees.”
Fellow processor Teys Australia has set aside jobs at its Naracoorte facility to help displaced TFI staff.
“Generally when there are these sorts of issues, the industry is pretty close-knit,” Mr Sandercock said.
As well as Teys, and JBS Australia at Bordertown, he said the other major facilities were pork processors Big River Pork, Murray Bridge, and Primo, Port Wakefield, and while different species, may have opportunities.