Meat producers worried about sick staff but no shortage of raw materials

Despite the growing demand and the long queues at the borders of some European countries, the Estonian meat industry is not afraid of a shortage of raw materials and are much more worried their employees will fall sick.

Joel Listak, Sales and Marketing Manager for Karni told ERR since they use a lot of domestic raw materials, have their own slaughterhouse and partner farms where they buy their pigs, they have no shortage of raw materials.

"Killing [animals] ourselves is our advantage, we don't rely so much on buying them," Listak said. He added the slaughterhouses in Rakvere and Saaremaa, for example, also have their own slaughterhouses, and those for who are buy animals it may be more complicated.

Listak said Karni does buy some things such as casing for sausages, however, they currently have enough stock.

In the panic caused by the coronavirus, people have been buying unusually large quantities of food, but according to a meat industry spokesman, shoppers have been primarily buying groceries and other durable goods. However, Karni's sales also increased to cover orders for hotels, restaurants and spas that have now fallen. All in all, the company's sales are slightly above normal.

Speaking about the future, Listak said he does not know what will happen, but the company is most afraid someone will come to work with the virus and so they are trying to limit the number of visitors and work from home.

"Every morning we take everyone's temperatures, the measures taken are pretty serious. It's more of a concern that nobody will bring the virus into production, that the workers will not disappear. Because we are based among the forests of Põlva, our advantage is that we are here and this virus hasn't come here, "Listak said.

Anne Mere, chairman of the board of HKScan Estonia, which uses the Rakvere and Tallegg trademarks, said the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus have led to problems with cross-border freight traffic, but they do not currently have issues with accessing raw materials.

"Rakvere Farms is Estonia's largest pig farmer and Tallegg's only poultry producer in Estonia," he said.

Mere said the situation is constantly evolving and that potential supply problems are being addressed on an ongoing basis, including at the national level. As a good example, she mentioned how the deadlock on the Latvian-Estonian border crossing was resolved overnight.

"In general, there is a continuous and operational dialogue with suppliers, everyone is working to solve both minor and major problems. There are sufficient stocks of packaging and spices both in our warehouse and in Estonia. There have been some delays in the arrival of sea containers, with possible changes to the schedule," she said.

Atria's meat industry, with its brands Maks & Moorits, Wõro and VK, is also not afraid of a shortage of raw materials. CEO Olle Horm said pigs and cattle live and grow on their farms. However, there may be minor problems with materials that come across the border.

Atria's sales increased due to coronavirus panic buying, and Horm said their main issue is how to predict for how long demand will continue to grow, given that once the cabinets are full of food, shoppers should not have a need to keep buying meat.

In terms of staff illness, Horm said that in addition to coronavirus, this is the high season for colds and flu, so staff are as they are, but Atria can handle it.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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