21 May 2013

NZ mistakes blamed for China shipment delay

3:08 pm on 21 May 2013

Farmers affected by a meat export hold-up in China say New Zealand has to get the basics right if it wants to keep building trade with the economic giant.

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

On 1 March this year, export certificates for companies to send meat to China were changed 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.

John McCarthy, a sheep and beef farmer in the central North Island, says he's worried about the financial impact if the exports are delayed much longer.

But Mr McCarthy says Chinese authorities are just being vigilant and New Zealand needs to make sure it gets the basics right if it wants to keep increasing trade with China.

Richard Young, who farms at Tapanui in West Otago, also wants the mistake fixed as quickly as possible and believes the Government has been a bit slow off the mark.

"If this is going to be our future biggest partner in trade these things need to be ironed out pretty quickly, don't they."

Mr Young suspects New Zealand meat is perceived as competing with pork and chicken produced in China.

But a New Zealand investment based in China says protectionism has nothing to do with the delay.

David Mahon says the problem is clearly an administrative issue related to documentation. He says meat exports to China have nearly doubled in the last year, but still make up just 0.3% of total meat sales in China.

'Talking past each other'

Prime Minister John Key said on Monday that New Zealand's ambassador to China had confirmed the issue holding up the shipments was a technical one.

"The Chinese were waiting for some updated information from MPI which I understand has now been provided. The Chinese are working through the information quickly and constructively and we're hopeful the issue will be resolved this week," Mr Key says.

Mr Key says part of the problem stems from changes in export certificates at this end, but also changes in China as it improves its systems to crack down on counterfeit meat trading.

He says it is not a case of the Chinese authorities being protectionist as the trade relationship is strong and China sees New Zealand as a good supplier of meat.

In the meantime, the Ministry for Primary Industries has stopped issuing export certificates at the request of Chinese authorities.