Ministry lifts export suspension at Pukeuri

Alliance Group's Pukeuri plant has been given the green light to resume exports to China.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) confirmed that the suspension placed on exports from the meat-processing plant to China had been lifted as of Monday.

The announcement follows an audit at the end of June by officials from China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

The plant, north of Oamaru, had its certification for China suspended by the MPI last July, after a container with incorrectly labelled cartons of sheep meat was shipped to China.

The plant passed an MPI audit in November. Pukeuri plant manager Geoff Proctor said staff at the plant had welcomed the lifting of the suspension.

"We're really pleased. It's been a long haul really over the past 12 months. There's no doubt China is a significant market for our products, so we're pleased that we are once again able to send product there."

The Chinese market, which has grown substantially in recent times, is vital to the plant, according to Proctor.

"We produce for other markets, but the Chinese market is quite critical to our business. There's been huge growth in that market, for sheep meat in particular, in the past 12 to 18 months."

Proctor said the plant had introduced a number of improved systems and procedures following the suspension. "It's business as usual now, really. We are back to normal in terms of production. Our focus is now on running an efficient operation and ensuring full compliance with export requirements."

Production resumed late last week following routine winter maintenance in preparation for the new season.

Proctor said one chain at the plant starts sheep and lamb processing today, while production on a second chain would start on Tuesday. About 400 staff are involved in production across the two chains. Bobby calf production is also under way.

The Timaru Herald