29 Jan 2010

Checks urged for Chinese fruit imports

1:41 pm on 29 January 2010

Comments in an official report by the agriculture ministry have prompted calls for more checks to ensure fresh produce imported from China meets New Zealand standards.

The report, written by senior MAF advisor Dr Mike Ormsby after a visit to China, questions the transparency and accuracy of record keeping in that country.

Biosecurity systems used in China are set up in a way that ensures all produce passes official audits and failures are not recorded or reported, he says.

His report says that if MAF relied on China's systems to prevent pests and diseases entering New Zealand, it would need to ensure that Chinese packing companies did not pervert the system by disguising or otherwise hiding risk from those doing audit and compliance checks.

The New Zealand Winegrowers organisation wants MAF officials to carry out pre-border inspections on systems in place in China, to prevent any diseases being let in on imported grapes, as was done when grapes were imported from California.

MAF plant imports and exports group manager Stephen Butcher says the agency doesn't rely on one method alone to detect pests and diseases entering the country on fresh produce.

He says Chinese officials must also sign a supporting document which identifies all requirements and assures New Zealand that they're being met, and the systems are audited, partly through inspections.

Mr Butcher says it's not yet known when the first Chinese grapes will be imported into New Zealand.