Ministry officials take rap Meat blockade all but over

Last updated 05:00 24/05/2013

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Primary Industries minister Nathan Guy has heaped blame for a major Chinese trade block at the feet of his officials, claiming he only learned last week that unauthorised export certificates were being issued.

Mr Guy praised China for the way it had worked with authorities, as he claimed hundreds of tonnes of frozen meat, currently stranded in Chinese ports, could be allowed in within days.

On Monday the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) said it did not know what China's issue was with certification.

Prime Minister John Key suggested soon after that it was linked to efforts to expose counterfeit meat.

But Mr Guy dismissed that explanation yesterday.

He said a simple and unacceptable mistake had been made in what was the ministry's core business.

"I'm very disappointed in my officials, issuing export certification is really their core business and I'm disappointed in how this issue has come to bear," he said.

China is New Zealand's largest buyer of sheepmeat by both value and volume, and is an increasingly significant buyer of beef.

On Wednesday meat companies were asked to prepare new documentation for their meat consignments in China or those en route. An official would also travel to China today to hand deliver copies.

The certificates will be issued under the name of the NZ Food Safety Authority, rather than MPI.

While he denied that China was to blame for any of the block, which may have started at the end of April, he admitted he was unable to answer questions about how it came about.

It was "too hard" to get an answer on why some animal products had been allowed into China but not others, or why the meat began being blocked some two months after documentation changed.

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