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FACTORY FIRE: Why it is a big deal for the pork industry

Photo from fire at Swickers Bacon Factory in Kingaroy, November 6, 2016.
Photo from fire at Swickers Bacon Factory in Kingaroy, November 6, 2016. Denise Keelan

WHAT WE KNOW

  • A fire broke out at Swickers Bacon Factory about 7.45am Sunday.
  • The boning room and meat chillers were damaged in the fire.
  • An exclusion zone placed around the scene has been lifted as at 6pm Sunday.
  • There were no injuries from the fire.
  • Mayor has called the fire a "significant concern" for the South Burnett.
  • Swickers is one of the biggest employers in the South Burnett, and has about 600 workers.
  • The factory has been operating in Kingaroy for more than 50 years.
  • Swickers wants to have the undamaged areas back up and running in a week.

SWICKERS Bacon Factory has engaged other industry processors to deal with the fallout from Sunday's factory fire, according to Pork Queensland president John Coward.

"I think the good thing that we're aware of at this point in time, they have taken immediate steps to take care of the ongoing service of their customers and their producers…from both sides of the fence," Mr Coward said.

Mr Coward said he had been told Swickers would provide alternative slaughter facilities immediately.

"They'll be looking to engage in the support of other industry processors. I think it's good to see that cooperation," he said.

But the former Swickers managing director said the fire would still have an effect on pork production while the company worked out logistics.

"It's a very significant event for the company and the industry," he said.

"It couldn't have come at a worse time leading into Christmas."

SunPork Group CEO Robert van Barneveld said the boning room and meat chillers were damaged in the fire, but contingencies were in place to deal with the issue.

Swickers has operated in Kingaroy for 50 years and is the only major export-grade pig abattoir in Queensland.

"Exports are a minimal side of the business," Mr Coward said.

"The major concern would be the service they provide to other meat wholesalers…that they can continue to provide that.

"That will be their immediate focus to ensure they can do that."

He said if the slaughter facilities were out for 1-2 weeks, it could result in overcrowding.

"It's a continuous process in a piggery…it's just an ongoing everyday another batch coming through," Mr Coward said.

He said he was pleased Swickers had contingency plans in place.

"You plan for the worst and hope it never happens," Mr Coward said.

"It has allayed a lot of fears."

Swickers said it intended to have the undamaged parts of the factory operation again in a week.

Mr van Barneveld and general manager of operations Linchon Hawks met with the Local Government Disaster Group on Sunday afternoon to discuss the fire.

Swickers employees met for a private meeting at Kingaroy Town Hall on Sunday night.

Topics:  pork industry south burnett fire swickers bacon factory

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