13 Jul 2008

Talks over 'unwarranted' Jakarta beef ban

4:20 pm on 13 July 2008

The country's biggest meat company is hoping for a quick resolution to Indonesia's ban on New Zealand beef imports.

Indonesian authorities are suspending the $94 million-a-year trade from 7 July, because of problems with halal certifications and regulations on dual language labelling.

Strict halal rules in Indonesia require labels to be in both English and Indonesian and printed directly onto the packaging. New Zealand suppliers have been using stickers.

Silver Fern Farms chief executive Keith Cooper says the company is working with government officials to make them aware of the ban's implications. He says there is an established custom and practice for labelling of products bound for Indonesia.

Trade Minister Phil Goff will meet Indonesian diplomats early next week over the ban, which the Government says is unwarranted and unacceptable.

Mr Goff says the ban has came as a total surprise, and the motivation for the move is not clear.

"We think that it has less to do with food safety and halal issues, and perhaps more to do with the Indonesian domestic political and business environment," he says.

"But beyond that I can't be specific - we simply don't know what has motivated the Indonesians to act in this way."

The matter has been taken up by the New Zealand embassy in Jakarta and Indonesia's envoy to Wellington.

Contamination setback

Food safety investigators trying to find the source of beef contaminated by a pesticide that was sent to South Korea have had to start the process again.

Tests in South Korea found traces of the insecticide endosulfan in a carton of beef that had been processed at a Waikato meat plant.

South Korean authorities have stopped further imports of beef from that processing plant while the source of the contamination was traced. Beef from all other New Zealand sources is still allowed into South Korea.

Food Safety Authority director of compliance and investigation Geoff Allen says investigators had been working on the wrong carton of beef.

He says the authority has now identified the correct carton, and has begun the investigation again.