Compensation possible for China meat delay

HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Last updated 14:37 24/05/2013

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John Key has raised the possibility of meat companies being compensated for delays getting their product into China, with officials continuing to face blame.

Yesterday Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy launched an attack on officials at the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), saying they had initially underplayed the significance of the holdup, which saw all sheep meat and beef blocked from entering the Chinese market.

Today Key echoed Guy's comments.

"The officials really didn't raise it hard enough and fast enough with him," Key said in Auckland.

"The issue wasn't raised as a really high priority issue early on. It wasn't raised exactly what was actually causing the delays.

"It was a very matter-of-fact response to the minister, and it's taken a long time for us to get all the information."

While the minister was responsible for the actions of the ministry, he was serviced by his officials, Key said.

"I think he [Guy] strongly believes that he didn't get the advice at the level that he asked for," the PM said.

It was possible that compensation would be paid for the incident Key said, although he noted that chilled meat was allowed through the Chinese border, and the frozen meat would still be in good condition.

"I haven't seen any advice on that but there will be some sort of cost," Key said.

"I think it will be relatively minimal and it's potentially possible that MPI will have to pay it."

One source estimated the cost, mainly related to having containers stuck at port incurring fees, would be in the order of $2 million to $3m.

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