Production at Acme Smoked Fish smoked salmon facility down 15% due to labour shortage: “Naturally, we look to automation options”

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Navigating through heightened demand.

Port City Daily reports that Acme’s 100,000-square-foot processing facility in Wilmington, North Carolina, USA, is feeling the strain of a pandemic response-induced labour shortage.

“For now, overtime is filling gaps –– an undesirable and unsustainable fix,” wrote the publication, adding that production is down 15 per-cent at one of America’s largest smoked salmon facilities, but demand has increased for smoked salmon.

Acme’s director of manufacturing Felipe Espinosa explained that a few years ago, the company was processing about 68 tonnes a week shipped in from Chile. This year, the facility expects between 90 to 113 tonnes a week.

For the past few months, the company has called for overtime hours on the company’s off-day to keep up with production needs. “We want people to have their free time,” Espinosa said.

“Management has been toying with the idea of creating part-time jobs to fill the production gap instead of waiting on full-time hires that aren’t arriving,” he added.

Port City Daily pointed to increases in federal payments during the pandemic for the lack of workers.

“Federal unemployment benefits are being blamed for dissuading would-be employees. President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, ratified March 11, extended USD 300 weekly federal unemployment benefits through September 6. The benefits are available to the unemployed in addition to up to USD 350 from the state, which offers a maximum of 20 weeks of payments,” the publication wrote.

The shortage has also made Acme, which produced 4,300 tonnes of smoked salmon last year, consider alternative means to fill the void. “Naturally, we look to automation options,” said Espinosa.

Late May, Acme Smoked Fish’s Brooklyn expansion was approved by New York City Council. The new USD 550 million mixed-use development will include Acme’s new 8853m3 four-story smoking and packaging facility. Construction is expected to begin in autumn and Acme Smoked Fish is expected to move into its new home by late 2024. The full development is slated to be completed by mid-2025.