4 Mar 2013

Farmers fear foot and mouth risk from imports

8:31 pm on 4 March 2013

The Government says it is reviewing a report by farmers which raises concerns that imported palm kernel could bring foot and mouth disease to New Zealand.

The dairy industry imports palm kernel expeller feed from Malaysia where foot and mouth is endemic.

The report dated December 2012 was produced following a visit to Malaysia by two Federated Farmers representatives.

It details the poor condition of a palm kernel plant the farmers inspected in September last year.

Colin Mackinnon said the plant he visited was open to birds, monkeys and vermin as well as cattle and clearly breached New Zealand's health import standards.

Federated Farmers grain and seed vice chairman David Clark said he does not oppose palm kernel imports - as long as they are sourced from suppliers who have rigorous biosecurity standards.

But he says the conditions he saw in Malaysia were completely substandard and worries the dairy industry and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) have created a disease pathway into New Zealand.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said the ministry is looking into the report.

"If there is any new information then MPI very quickly look into that information and work across whatever country it might be to ensure that our system is robust."

Last week, a report by the Auditor-General found that the MPI is ill-prepared for an outbreak of foot and mouth in New Zealand.