21 May 2013

Blocked meat shipments to move 'in two days'

3:07 pm on 21 May 2013

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy is confident that meat shipments being held up in China will begin being taken off wharves in the next two days and says chilled product is already being moved.

Chinese officials have been refusing to clear the meat being held at the border because of confusion over a name change on accompanying documentation.

Export certificates for companies to send meat to China were changed in March this year to recognise that the former Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) is now known as the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). The ministry also includes the New Zealand Food Safety Authority and the Ministry of Fisheries.

Mr Guy told Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon programme on Tuesday that some chilled meat is already being taken off the wharf and frozen product is likely to be moved in the next two days.

The trade manager for the Meat Industry Association Dan Coup he will be pleased if the issue is sorted out in a couple of days but says experience with previous trade issues has taught him not to get his hopes up too soon.

Meat plant certification

The export status of some of New Zealand's meat plants may be a factor in the current problem with meat shipments to China.

Sheep and beef exports to China have grown phenomenally, creating headaches for the meat industry and the Government as they try to get more plants certified for export to keep up with demand.

Mr Guy says the government trade delegation to China last month discussed the registration of New Zealand meat companies with top officials there.

He said Prime Minister John Key and other ministers raised the issue in April, and many companies have been listed in the past four to six weeks. "That issue has been worked through and resolved so I don't see that that's a big part of this discussion. It may be a part of it."

Labour Party primary industry spokesperson Damien O'Connor says there have been different explanations on different days from the Government. He says it is hard to believe assurances that it will be sorted out in a short period of time.