Dec 26 (Reuters) - Cargill Ltd's [CARGIL. UL] beef packing plant in Dodge City, Kansas, which was idled by fire on Monday, is expected to return to normal operations as early as Saturday, a company spokesman said in an e-mail.
Cleanup is being conducted at the plant on Thursday, Cargill spokesman Michael Martin said. The facility is expected to be fully operational by Saturday, if employees choose to work, or Monday, he said.
On Tuesday, company officials said the packing plant would be closed until next week as they assess damage from the blaze, which was mainly limited to the facility's kill floor.
"Tomorrow, we anticipate fabrication work, separation of meat cuts for customers, on the second shift and possibly some harvesting as well," he said.
Martin added that investigators are still looking into the cause of the fire, which caused an estimated $250,000 in damage. Repairs consist of roofing materials, insulation and some of the plants electrical wiring, he said.
The Dodge City plant employs more than 2,700 people, according to the company's website. Industry analysts estimate that the facility has the capacity to process about 5,000 head of cattle per day.
"This is good news for Cargill and cattle producers. The prospect of a big plant like that being down for a long period of time would have been negative for cattle prices in the area," University of Missouri economist Ron Plain said.