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NZ meat exports at risk after ill-informed comment

New Zealand meat exports at risk due to ill-informed comments

“New Zealand's superb on farm verification standards means we are streets ahead of Australia in terms of sheep meat and other exports into the European Union," said Lachlan McKenzie, Federated Farmers board spokesperson.

Following news that all Australian sheep destined for the EU must be compulsorily tagged from 1 January 2009, Silver Fern Farms' CEO, Keith Cooper, has claimed New Zealand is missing the boat by not having a comparable tagging system; implying Australian standards are much higher than New Zealand’s. This has alarmed Federated Farmers. The comments could potentially undermine market confidence in New Zealand’s food assurance standards, when in fact, they are of the highest order. The EU’s decision on Australian sheep imports also came after that country failed a periodic EU audit.

"Keith Cooper’s comments could do harm to our multi-billion dollar meat export trade. I hope overseas media do not pick up on his comments as it could damage our international reputation. New Zealand possesses superb independent and audited assurance systems run by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) with the Animal Health Board," Mr McKenzie added.

“I would have thought Mr Cooper understood the role the NZFSA plays in market assurance for sheep meat. By hopping on this Aussie bandwagon he clearly doesn’t. Mr Cooper is scoring an own goal at the expense of farmers and the wider economy.

"Frankly, I am astounded proponents of the proposed National Animal Identification and Tracing scheme (NAIT) have leapt on the Australian tagging requirement. First, the proposed NAIT scheme isn’t meant to include sheep from the get-go and secondly, as I understand it, the Australian tag requirement is for bog standard visual tags and not RFID.

“New Zealand’s systems for on farm verification and animal status are truly world class. The NZFSA and Animal Health Board are major assets in providing verification and market assurance about the food we export to the world. This is data that our trading partners audit and accept. This is data which provides the vital element of assurance that our food is wholesome and above all, safe.

“NAIT discounts NZFSA and Animal Health Board resources when clearly the EU, with its exacting standards, doesn't. That tells us they are the foundation to build upon and not NAIT.

"Why spend tens of millions of dollars New Zealand doesn't have just to reinvent the wheel with NAIT? NAIT seems to be a solution looking for a problem and Mr Cooper’s comments reinforce that view.

"The EUs comprehensive audit scope for New Zealand going forward includes animal identification, origin, treatments (including withholding periods), feed (including the ruminant to ruminant feed ban), welfare and the use of hormone growth promotants.

"Following New Zealand's most recent audit by the EU in 2008, the NZFSA's on-farm verification audits of beef, sheep and deer farms were increased to 600 from 250. New Zealand has a robust and audited on-farm programme verification system which works. Just ask the EU," Mr McKenzie concluded.

ENDS

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