Pork producers mount import challenge

Pork is on the table at the Court of Appeal today, where local pork producers have mounted a challenge to new rules that allow imports of cheaper foreign cuts of pig meat.

The imports remain on hold while the New Zealand Pork Industry Board action continues.

The board wants to stop imports of raw foreign pork from countries with the devastating pig disease porcine reproductive respiratory syndrome.

New Zealand is one of a handful of countries that does not yet have the disease, which does not affect humans but can cause miscarriages and still births in pregnant sows and stunts growth and can be fatal to piglets.

Raw pork was imported for a few years in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but more recently only cooked or treated pork has been imported in response to research that suggests the disease might be spread if raw pork from animals carrying the disease was fed to pigs.

Later the director general of agriculture approved an import health standard that allowed raw pork imports to resume if in "consumer-ready" cuts of 3kg or less.

The Pork Industry Board says the proper process was not followed in the way the new health standard was developed. Its arguments failed in the High Court but its appeal against that decision is being heard in the Court of Appeal today.

The former Agriculture and Forestry Ministry - now the Primary Industries Ministry - says the health standard means the risk of spreading the disease into the pig population here is virtually nil.

However the Pork Industry Board disputes the science the health standard is based on and says it does not manage the risk.

The hearing is continuing.

The Dominion Post