Meat companies with product sitting on China’s wharves will be relieved to hear the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is issuing new export certificates to release containers of meat products held up at the Chinese border and that an apology is on the way.
Shipments of meat into China were delayed after MPI issued export certification in a format which had not been approved by Chinese authorities at AQSIQ.
“In close co-operation with AQSIQ, we have now developed a process to fix the problem and are working around the clock to implement it. In the first instance, this will involve issuing the correct certification for products that have been held up or are currently on the water. New certificates will start flowing to China today,” says MPI’s acting director-general Andrew Coleman.
“While the issue here is a technical one, we can fully understand the decision by Chinese authorities to delay the consignments of New Zealand meat.”
“Making sure the details are right around export certification is part of MPI’s core responsibility. We issue some 7,000 meat and seafood export certificates a month, with associated transfer documents numbering about 40,000. It’s critically important that New Zealand’s exporters and trading partners can be confident that the certification we provide is correct,” Coleman said.
“When this issue has been sorted out we will be taking a very hard look at our processes to find out how this happened and make sure it never happens again.
“We will examine why the scale and seriousness of this issue wasn’t made clear to Ministers sooner and the timeliness of our updates. We have apologised to Ministers, and we will be apologising to meat exporters, and the Chinese authorities, about the confusion and frustration this issue has caused.”
No figures have been released as to the quantities of meat involved in the hold-up over the past two to three weeks since the start of May, but it will have been substantial. In the year to end December 2012, a total of 77,610 tonnes, worth $344 million FOB, of sheepmeat was shipped to China. Exports of beef were 10,491 tonnes worth $51 million last year, but are understood to have been trending upwards markedly this year.
Meat companies will be relieved that the matter has been resolved and also cautiously optimistic that shipments will start moving again next week. The MIA is currently seeking further clarification on the exact content of the agreement and correct documentation required so exports can start flowing again.
The news has been received with relief by Federated Farmers, whose president Bruce Wills has thanked the Minister, New Zealand trade officials and Chinese authorities for solving a big problem, but says it feels like “we have been ankle-tapped by a member of our own team”.