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South Korean Meat Move Welcomed

The South Korean Government's decision that New Zealand meat plants are no longer subject to stringent inspection procedures meant greater certainty and opportunity for meat exporters targeting the Korean market, Agriculture and Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Until now, South Korean procedures called for South Korean inspectors to conduct on-site inspection and approval of any meat plants wanting to export to South Korea.

From 1 November, all categories of Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry-licensed premises handling meat and meat products (export slaughterhouses, packing houses, deer slaughter premises, and export stores) are automatically approved. As new plants are licensed, they will be added to the MAF list and passed to South Korea.

Mr Sutton said the Korean authorities accepted that New Zealand systems were good enough to not need additional procedures.

"Instead, MAF licensing is recognised as ensuring premises are appropriately monitored and proper food safety and hygiene measures have been applied to Korean meat export products.

"There has been an on-going problem for new plants producing venison and other deer products for the Korean market not being approved there. In recent cases, exporters found their products were being detained on arrival in Korea, because the stores exporting the product were not recognised by Korean authorities."

Mr Sutton said the decision means Korean customers will benefit from the most modern New Zealand plants and gives the New Zealand meat industry much-needed flexibility in its export activities.

"In March, I told the Korean Agriculture Minister that New Zealand was committed to resolving this issue and it was important for officials from both countries to work closely together to find a solution. I'm glad that process has now paid off.

"It is a testimony to the integrity of MAF systems that Korea has been persuaded to put New Zealand into a very restricted top category of exporting countries. It is also tangible recognition that the concept of equivalence provided for in World Trade Organisation agreements can have a practical benefit," said Mr Sutton.

"One of the reasons advanced by the Koreans for their change of attitude was the move by New Zealand to risk management programmes in meat processing. It seems particularly fitting that the news came to us this week, when the new Animal Products Act regime commences."

Mr Sutton said he hoped New Zealand exporters would make full use of the new opportunities which the Korean Government's decision creates.

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