South Canterbury's meat processing companies are ramping up for the season.

Silver Fern Farms' plant at Pareora is operating near full capacity, while Alliance Smithfield has been processing deer and is looking to start sheep and lamb processing soon.

Pareora plant manager Bruce McNaught said

new people were being trained and existing staff upskilled into key roles in readiness for processing ahead of the Christmas period.

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''We are continuing a recruitment drive to bring on additional processing capability for when we ramp up sheepmeat processing towards the end of November,'' he said.

''We are also looking for staff across a variety of roles, including skilled knife-hands, general labourers and staff in our load-out team.''

At the peak of the season, the Pareora plant employed 880 staff.

Ivan Docherty, acting plant manager at Smithfield, said they had been processing deer, running two shifts at the plant for the past six weeks.

''Approximately 200 people, including trades, are currently employed at the plant and we expect this to increase to 560 people once sheep and lamb processing begins.''

Sheep and lamb processing was expected to begin in the first week of December.

Mr McNaught said the seasonal outlook for sheepmeat shipments in November and December was relatively positive, particularly in China and the United States, where prices had shown some stability.

European markets remained under pressure where prices had eased as a result of lower demand.

''There is still carry-over stock in this market, which is a result of the warmer summer weather subduing consumer demand for lamb.

''This stock will need to be worked through before demand turns.''

Mr McNaught said orders for mutton through to Christmas were favourable.

-By Chris Tobin

Central Rural Life