The Ministry for Primary Industries has been caught short again as another problem with export documentation leaves New Zealand meat sitting on China's wharves.
In late June, China changed its rules for the importation of meat, requiring vets at the final site the meat is held before being shipped to sign export documentation, but did not inform New Zealand.
Ministry officials only found about about the problem last Thursday, after meat was stopped on a wharf in the port of Dalian in north-eastern China because it didn't adhere to the new rules.
The change has caught out about 1300 containers of New Zealand meat shipped without the new documentation.
Officials in New Zealand are now scrambling to issue retrospective export certificates signed by vets.
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy was actually in China meeting his counterparts when the latest problems arose - just after he had announced that a smooth trade flow was in both countries' interests.
Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye says the Government is working to find out why it wasn't told sooner about the rule change although it's not unusual, she says, for rules to change.
Two months ago a different glitch with bungled paperwork left millions of dollars' worth of New Zealand beef and lamb on Chinese docks.
At the time, the New Zealand China Trade Association said it hoped there would be no repeat of the paperwork problem. Its chair, Tim White, says questions will now be raised throughout the sector about the time lag between when the latest changes were made and when New Zealand found out.
The Labour Party's spokesperson for primary industries, Damien O'Connor, says the Government's attitude is timid and pathetic. He says exporters need assurances the Government is doing all it can to get the meat cleared.