13 Jun 2013

Farmer pleased MPI addressing palm kernel issues

1:58 pm on 13 June 2013

One of the farmers who blew the whistle on lax biosecurity at some overseas palm kernel processing sites has applauded moves to address some of their concerns.

David Clark was one of the two Federated Farmer grain representatives who filed a critical report after visiting several palm oil processing sites in Malaysia.

They identified the potential for foot and mouth and other pests and diseases to contaminate palm kernel expeller (PKE), which New Zealand imports in large quantities as stock feed for dairy cows.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy responded by sending ministry officials to check biosecurity safeguards at palm kernel manufacturing and storage facilities in Malaysia and Indonesia.

They concluded that the biosecurity risk is low, but identified two areas for improvement, including the need for tighter controls to prevent contamination from birds and rodents.

David Clark has acknowledged the minister's action in following up their report and is pleased MPI officials appear to have picked up on some of their concerns.

Mr Clark said his report highlighted the potential for PKE from plants that hadn't been audited or weren't managing their palm kernel stocks in accordance with the import health standards to end up in New Zealand.

He said MPI officials seem to have recognised that particular chance of contamination.

He said some of the plants that officials visited were found to have storage and handling facilities that didn't keep rodents and birds from entering into the stocks of palm kernel.

Mr Clark said the Federated Farmers report raised that issue and he's pleased that MPI staff have recognised that.

But Mr Clark has challenged the assumption that the foot and mouth threat is removed because PKE shipments are heat-treated as well as being fumigated and inspected.

He says heating is a by-product of crushing the palm kernel and is not done for any biosecurity purpose. "It's the storage and handling of that product after crushing that gives the opportunity for contamination if it's not stored in a very secure manner."