The abattoir was severely damaged in a fire on 3 January 2018 and although nobody was hurt, the impact on the business was huge.
CEO Darren Thomas explained how tough the fire was on the entire business. “It tested everyone at Thomas Foods International and I’m proud to say we rose to the challenge. We said from day one that the road ahead would be difficult. We acknowledge that there hasn’t been an easy outcome for everyone and that some people have been impacted harder than others.
“Despite this, the efforts of our staff to overcome obstacles and minimise disruption to our global operations have been nothing short of extraordinary.”
Thomas said production delays were minimised by rerouting work through its other plants.
“Over the course of the year, we created hundreds of jobs at our plants in Lobethal and Tamworth by investing millions of dollars to maintain the integrity of our various brands, while expanding capacity.”
He added that a new site had been identified in the area for a new abattoir. “These events can destroy companies, but Thomas Foods International is emerging stronger. Our engineering and design teams have been working diligently behind the scenes and have made significant progress as we determine future opportunities.
“We have identified a greenfield site in Murray Bridge that may be appropriate for a rebuild and have spent the last three months working feverishly to prepare an extremely detailed feasibility plan. This process covers everything from cost, business case and technology through to workforce availability.
“We have also engaged internationally-renowned food processing infrastructure experts who are leading our design of a world-class processing facility.”
Thomas said that the next few months would be crucial for finalising plans.
“Over the next few months we expect to finalise these documents in readiness to tender. However, some questions will need to be answered before we can proceed.
“These include certainty around the critical regional infrastructure required to support a development of this magnitude and the availability of a skilled workforce in the start-up phase and over the long term. All of these we believe we can overcome with the support of the community, regulatory authorities and various government agencies, both federal and state-based.
“As such, further planning and discussion with key stakeholders will be required before we can make further announcements on our plans to replace the Murray Bridge plant.”
He also gave an update on the business’ overseas work.
“We’ve also continued to grow our international operations. This has involved opening an office in Japan, building on our investment and presence in China, expanding our operations in the United States and, more recently, entering into an equity partnership with Luiten Food in the Netherlands to become our central sales and distribution centre for Europe and the United Kingdom.”