Support for pork appeal

Marlborough Federated Farmers will ask its national office and Beef and Lamb New Zealand to back NZ Pork's legal challenge to the freeing up of fresh pork imports.

In May, the High Court upheld a decision by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (now Ministry for Primary Industries) to relax import standards for pig meat from countries with porcine reproductive and respiratory system (PRRS) virus.

At a provincial executive meeting in Blenheim last Thursday, Pat O'Sullivan said on the one hand government had introduced a National Animal Identification Scheme to improve the New Zealand response to any biosecurity scare.

On the other hand, it was opening its borders to PRRS and even perhaps foot and mouth disease.

"A camper could buy fresh pork from a supermarket, then the wind blows the plastic into a paddock which becomes a source of bio-infection," he said.

Already, the pork industry was trading on an unfair playing field, he said.

Pig farmers were not subsidised and could not use farrowing crates yet countries exporting pork to New Zealand, did not have these restrictions.

"This is free trade but not fair trade," said Mr O'Sullivan.

Green Party MP Steffan Browning, who lives in Marlborough, has said importing untreated pig meat from countries with PRRS was a major issue.

New Zealand pig farmers were already affected by the import of pork from countries with lower or non-existent animal welfare codes, food handling and food safety standards, said Mr Browning in a Green Party blog. Cheap imported pork had driven down prices leaving farm returns too low to cover their cost of production.

Importing raw pork increased the risk of PRRS being spread in New Zealand, he said. The virus meant a long, slow death for infected pigs and could annihilate the industry here.

"This is unacceptable, when we have pig farmers here making a real effort to farm in an environmentally acceptable way," he said.

The Marlborough Express