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Smithfield sees North Carolina meat operations back to normal on Monday

By Jim Brumm
Some of the products of Smithfield Foods are displayed in front of at a news conference on WH Group's IPO in Hong Kong April 14, 2014. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

By Jim Brumm

WILMINGTON, N.C. (Reuters) - Smithfield Foods Inc expects to resume full production on Monday at its North Carolina meat operations, including the world's largest pork plant, more than a week Hurricane Matthew struck the U.S. Southeast and triggered widespread flooding in the state.

Operations will get back to normal at Smithfield's four North Carolina meat-packaging facilities, and at its hog slaughtering and processing plants in Tar Heel and Clinton, spokeswoman Joyce Fitzpatrick said on Sunday. 

The Tar Heel pork plant is the world's largest, with an estimated daily slaughter capacity of 32,500 hogs, while Clinton has an estimated capacity of about 10,000 head, according to National Hog Farmer magazine. 

Fitzpatrick said partial operations resumed on Thursday, after being shut down the previous Saturday, as the hurricane tore up the Eastern Seaboard before veering into the Atlantic Ocean off North Carolina.

The most powerful Atlantic storm since 2007, Matthew dumped more than a foot (30 cm) of rain on eastern North Carolina's hog farms. With the area already soaked from heavy September rainfall, the result was near-record floods that began to recede on Friday.

Smithfield on Saturday said none of its processing plants in North Carolina or Virginia suffered much damage, but flooding made it difficult to transport hogs and for employees to get to work.

The company, owned by China's WH Group Ltd <0288.HK>, also said it had a report of flood waters rising into a pit holding hog waste at one of the farms contracted to supply livestock to its plants.

But so far Smithfield had no reports that any of the in-ground pits have fallen apart due to flooding of a tributary of the Cape Fear River near Wilmington, Fitzpatrick said.

Environmental regulators and activists had raised concerns about water inundating pits holding hog waste because flooding after Hurricane Floyd in 1999 overwhelmed them.  

(Editing by Frank McGurty and Sandra Maler)