August 16, 2019
A “quiet opening” planned for the new $64 million processing facility at Swickers Kingaroy Bacon Factory turned into a morning tea for more than 200 people at the complex on Friday morning.
The official unveiling of the plaque – held just 20 months after the sod-turning ceremony – was undertaken by State Development Minister Cameron Dick, Agricultural Industry Development Minister Mark Furner and SunPork managing director and CEO Professor Robert van Barneveld.
The new facility began operation slowly about five weeks ago but will soon more than double the processing capacity of Swickers.
At the moment it is processing about 450 pigs per hour, however this will increase to 750 – which means a total of between 4500-5000 pigs during just one eight-hour shift.
Prof Barneveld said it was an important day as it marked the end of four years of planning and implementation.
“It’s the start of a very bright future for the Australian pork industry,” he said.
Swickers had been operating at capacity for many years and if the pork industry was to grow, Swickers needed to grow, too.
“This new plant will allow us to significantly reduce our water usage, increase our product yields and significantly increase the shelf life and make sure the quality of the product exceeds the expectations of our customers,” Prof Barneveld said.
He said the 2016 fire which destroyed the nearby boning room had disrupted the planning process for the new facility but had focussed the company’s attention on just how important Swickers was.
“It absolutely has to run every day of the week so we have an obligation to make sure we have as many redundancies and the highest standard facility in place that we could possibly have,” Prof Barneveld said.
“We have built a facility that can stand the test of time. It has state-of-the-art fire protection and disaster mitigation components throughout.”
Prof Barneveld said it was a good time to commission a new abattoir as African Swine Flu was running through Asia and “up to half of the Chinese pig population is going to disappear off the face of the earth”.
“That’s a ‘black swan’ event for food. It’s going to result in a major realignment of protein supply worldwide,” he said.
“I think we are now very well-positioned to capture our fair share of new markets, new products in the export sector and also domestically.”
Minister Dick acknowledged the “three amazing Queensland families” behind Swickers who had contributed so much to the pork industry and Queensland jobs: the Cameron, McLean and Hall families.
He said that at the time of the 2016 fire, Swickers employed 570 people.
“It was a major employer in the region. Other companies could have closed the doors and walked away. But Swickers came back. They rebuilt. They expanded,” Mr Dick said.
“I think they demonstrated those characteristics that are completely essential to the Queensland character: strength, resilience and determination.
“That response says a lot about the company and the families that back the company.”
Those 570 jobs at the time of the fire had now expanded to 800.
“This facility will underpin the pork industry in this State for the next 30 years at least,” Mr Dick said.
SunPork Fresh Foods executive general manager Rhys Collins said SunPork recognised it had a responsibility to the pork industry.
“Ninety-five per cent of pigs in Queensland are processed through this site,” he said.
“This site is not only important to SunPork but it’s important to the pig industry, it’s important to the South Burnett and, of course, our employees.”
He said the opening represented SunPork’s ongoing commitment to the pork industry, the South Burnett and regional Queensland.
The State Government’s Jobs and Regional Growth Fund supported the Swickers expansion and will also support Sunpork’s next project – the further development of its piggery at Tong Park, pending a final investment decision by the company.