[29 August/Farmers Weekly] Alliance Group is investing $1.2 million in its Smithfield plant at Timaru to meet the needs of South Island farmers after Silver Fern Farms closed their plant 80km up the road in Fairton in 2017 and last week proposing to cease operations at its Fairton pelt house, the company blaming these closures on low sheep numbers. While acknowledging declining sheep numbers are a challenge for processing companies, Alliance chairman Murray Taggart said the co-operative is committed to its farmer shareholders and the communities it operates in. The Smithfield work includes installing more vacuum packaging, co-products processing technology and extending the secondary processing area to boost processing efficiency by up to 20%. Smithfield is one of the biggest employers in Timaru with 500 staff at peak season. Alliance is also spending $1m on a new value-add facility at its Lorneville plant in Southland. It will significantly expand the scope of existing production by increasing the processing capacity of fresh and tempered lamb. Alliance will initially target the NZ domestic market, the British food service sector and China with the value-add products.