German meatpackers should work longer hours after virus curbs - minister

HAMBURG, Oct 8 (Reuters) - Germany’s agriculture minister on Thursday called for state governments to allow abattoirs and meatpackers to work longer hours to deal with a backlog of animals that built up on farms during the coronavirus crisis.

German farming associations complain that reduced slaughtering and meat processing capacity after the coronavirus crisis means animals are having to wait longer on farms.

“The situation on some farms is tense and livestock producers are concerned,” Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner said in a statement. “An animal welfare protection problem is developing as animals ready for slaughter cannot be picked up.”

“Capacity in some slaughterhouses and meatpackers has been reduced.”

A series of German meat packing plants became COVID-19 hotspots this summer including the massive Toennies slaughterhouse and meatpacking plant in Rheda-Wiedenbrueck.

This caused a major industry shake-up with higher standards imposed, but the changes meant German slaughterhouses also reduced their capacity.

German state governments should consider giving special permission to abattoirs and meatpackers to work longer, especially on Sundays and public holidays, Kloeckner said.

But state subsidies of private warehousing to store unsold meat are only a last option, she added.

Authorities have ordered the Weidemark slaughterhouse plant in Soegel in north Germany to close over the weekend after a coronavirus outbreak. (Reporting by Michael Hogan; Editing by Jan Harvey)