Exports of NZ lamb to Iran not until next season at the earliest - Silver Fern Farms
The first steps to resume a trade deal with Iran will not be until next season, says one meat processor.
A spokesman for Silver Fern Farms, one of two exporters working with import companies in Iran, said the company was still in the very early process of making agreements and but it was likely to be an opportunity for next season.
With the lamb season wrapping up, it was too late for a deal to go through for this season, he said.
While speaking at the Central Districts Fieldays earlier this month, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said he had just returned from a visit to the Middle East country where he had signed a veterinary agreement that would pave the way for exports to Iran.
"Iran was a very important market for New Zealand in the 1980s. We were selling a quarter of our sheepmeat there before red tape and bureaucracy put a halt to the trade in the 1990s," he said.
New Zealand updated its regulations for doing business with Iran in February last year, in line with United Nations Security Council changes to sanctions.
Meat Industry Association chief executive Tim Ritchie said the prospect of sheepmeat trade with Iran was positive because any new trade with countries would add to the competitiveness of the industry, hopefully boosting returns for product.
The New Zealand sheepmeat environment was very different to the 1980s when trade with Iran was at its height.
Ritchie said there was still an appetite for lamb in Iran, and the country was now looking to see if that need could be satisfied by New Zealand.
"We have a finite amount of product we can produce."
The agreement the Ministry for Primary Industries and its Iranian counterpart made allows interested commercial exporters to talk business with parties in Iran.
"Whether or not that occurs will depend very much on the companies' ability to supply and the sort of prices the Iranian company is willing to pay," Ritchie said.
Iranian businesses would have to be willing to match competitive prices from other markets, he said.