24 Jun 2013

Labour says Govt too slow to respond to palm kernel risk

8:35 am on 24 June 2013

Labour Party says palm kernel imports should be stopped unless the Government can give an assurance that biosecurity controls for the trade have been drastically improved.

Palm kernel expeller (PKE), a by-product of palm oil processing, is imported into New Zealand in large quantities as stock feed for dairy cows.

The discovery of an animal limb in a delivery of PKE on a Bay of Plenty dairy farm has raised fresh concerns about the biosecurity risk, because nearly all of the palm kernel comes from Malaysia or Indonesia where foot and mouth disease is endemic.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says he's looking to tighten the import rules.

Some suppliers have been told to improve their storage conditions and Mr guy also made an urgent change to the Import Health Standard last week to try to stop PKE coming to New Zealand from unapproved plants.

But Labour Party primary industry spokesman Damien O'Connor says the response from the minister and the ministry has been far too slow.

He says there is a frightening situation where feed that the dairy industry is relying on is coming from countries where foot and mouth is endemic.

Mr O'Connor says the industry has been totally reliant on the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and the certification and biosecurity system to keep the risk of foot and mouth low.

"The reality is that they don't know. They've been reassuring us when they shouldn't have been, because they haven't been able to give us an honest assessment."

Mr O'Connor says unless the minister can give an assurance that the system has been drastically improved over the last couple of weeks, import of PKE into New Zealand should be stopped.

"MPI have now finally admitted they can't give a guarantee that PKE is coming from safe sources - if that's the case then we don't want foot and mouth in this country and we shouldn't allow any possible pathway for that to occur."