About 160 seasonal workers at Oamaru Meats Ltd (OML) are entering their fourth week off the job after the meat processor shut down the majority of its processing on September 13.

The unplanned closure followed the suspension of its access to China beef markets.

The North Otago company, owned by Chinese company BX Foods, said it had been working with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and the Chinese authorities to get more information.

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Oamaru Meats workers facing uncertain future

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OML director Richard Thorp, who had described the shut-down as a "temporary break in production'', said the plant had continued and about 20 staff had been retained for "non-China'' processing.

"It was a national holiday last week in China so they will come out of that this week and we are hopeful to hear more details over the next fortnight, but there is no indication of a time frame at this stage.''

He said the company met affected employees last week to advise them of the issue.

An MPI spokesman said the China suspension was not related to food safety issues and applied "only to Oamaru Meats and not to exports from any other New Zealand meat establishments''.