China agrees to release NZ meat

HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Last updated 16:47 23/05/2013

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Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has slammed his officials, claiming a simple mistake has caused meat to be blocked from entering China for weeks.

Today Guy said he learned yesterday that the problem stemmed from unauthorised documentation being issued by the Ministry of Primary Industries.

"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," Guy said in a press conference in his office.

"Normally we have a very strong system and this is very unusual."

A solution had been reached to allow new certification to be issued under the New Zealand Food Safety Authority logo. 

For weeks, possibly since late April, Chinese authorities have been refusing to allow New Zealand beef and sheep meat to enter the country.

Most of the meat is frozen in refrigerated containers, believed to be hundreds of tonnes, with chilled meat being given priority clearance.

Overnight meat companies processed health certificates on NZFSA letterhead, but the documentation contained little other than what was included in earlier documentation.

An MPI official will fly to China this evening with replacement export certificates.

Once the new certificates are received in China, it is expected to be another 10-14 days before hundreds of tonnes of frozen beef and sheep meat will be allowed into the country, a source said.

Guy said some meat could be moving within days. He praised Chinese authorities for their work to resolve the issue.

"I am grateful to the Chinese authorities for their willingness to work constructively with New Zealand officials to find a way through this administrative error," he said.

Today he could not answer questions as to why the issue had not blown up for almost two months after certification changed.

"I am also grateful to the New Zealand meat industry for their patience."

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