In a special two-part interview today on The Country, Jamie Mackay had some pressing questions for Alliance Group chief executive David Surveyor, over the way his meat processing plants were handling the Covid-19 response.
Running a meat processing company under Covid-19 restrictions is not easy, but that didn't stop The Country's Jamie Mackay asking Alliance Group chief executive David Surveyor some tricky questions on today's show.
In particular, Mackay wanted to know why Alliance's flagship plant at Lorneville took an Easter break when farmer shareholders "were desperate to move stock off their farms" and other companies worked through to clear a backlog of animals.
Surveyor said there was a "bit of misinformation" around Alliance's decision to close at the height of the season and that Covid-19 made it difficult for people to come to work.
"Even though we're taking safety precautions, people are naturally going to be pretty concerned about the risks."
Listen to Part One of Jamie Mackay's interview with David Surveyor on The Country below:
As well as this, Surveyor said this time of the season was when some staff got tired, injuries started to flare up and there were higher levels of absenteeism, "sometimes at 20 per cent."
"So we've calculated that rather than risk having to stop processing later in the season, it was better off to give our staff a break so they'd be reliable, fresh, able to dig deep and work faster for sustained periods with additional overtime to clear the farmer backlog."
Alliance also came back from Easter and "ramped up more capacity" said Surveyor.
"We started back from Easter with 8 per cent more ovine capacity, 12 per cent more bovine capacity and actually bovine's now at 15 per cent.
"So you know what - we've cleaned up any lost capacity over that Easter period by making sure that we've designed a better way of running the plants. So that's what we've done."
Surveyor understood why farmer shareholders could be frustrated but it was important to align "the massive number of sheep and beef that need to be processed" with the ability to sell products into global markets.
"Because if the markets deteriorate faster than we can sell, or supply chains get blocked or slow down, there's a real chance refrigerators will fill and there's a possibility livestock could be left on farms."
"The issue of a global recession is something that bankers and economists are widely talking about. So we need to be really agile at finding new markets and selling product."
Also in Part One: Mackay asked Surveyor if the AG group had a toxic work relationship with its workers and unions, if they were planning to work the long Anzac weekend, and what throughput looked like under Level 3 next week.
In Part Two of The Country interview with David Surveyor: Jamie Mackay asked if the Alliance Group was leading the charge south when it comes to schedule prices and whether the company was a corporate bully when it comes to paying its suppliers.
Mackay also asked Surveyor himself was a bully around the board table and if the Alliance Group was a one man band.
Finally Mackay asked Surveyor for his opinion on the prospects for red meat as the world plunges into recession.
Listen to Part Two of Jamie Mackay's interview with David Surveyor on The Country below: