Meat giant Silver Fern Farms proposes to close its sheepmeat plant at Fairton.
If the closure is formalised in a fortnight, 370 staff will lose their jobs.
They will be paid redundancy.
Chief executive Dean Hamilton said up to 230 jobs could be available at the company’s plants at Pareora, south of Timaru, Belfast, near Christchurch, and Hokitika.
The company blamed the situation on falling sheep numbers.
Fairton used to process over one million lambs before 2010. Last season it processed 500,000 and this season the number was down to 325,000.
Staff are being offered support and were told of the situation at a packed meeting at the Sinclair Centre, Ashburton, on Wednesday.
Mr Hamilton said Pareora – the company South island freezer hubs – was better placed to handle the stock once processed at Fairton.
The company will keep its pelthouse, with 23 jobs, open at Fairton.