Monday 8th July 2013
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New Zealand officials are again seeking clarification from China after meat consignments were stalled on Chinese wharves for the second time in as many months.
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy, who is in China on a trade mission, said he learned on Thursday that China had changed meat import rules and is now requiring sign off by a veterinarian directly linked to the last site meat was held before shipment.
Officials at the Ministry for Primary Industries were advised of the change by exporters, who complained that a shipment of meat was being held at the northern China port of Dalian. The changes affect 1,323 containers with about 30,000 metric tons of meat shipped since June 1, Guy said.
He said delays of only a couple of days were expected for most of the disrupted meat.
The latest hold-up comes after departing chief Wayne McNee was quoted saying New Zealand's trading relationship with China was strong. In May, Guy attributed blame for disruptions to about $100 million of meat to China on MPI using certification documents which hadn't been approved by Chinese authorities.
Labour's spokesperson for Primary industries Damien O'Connor said China's demand for veterinarian certification of all meat may force the government to reverse its plan to deregulate meat inspection in freezing works.
Amid broad concerns about food imports, China has been tightening rules and Fonterra Cooperative Group last week confirmed it had been questioned by Chinese officials as part of a broader probe into the pricing of infant formula. A separate probe is looking at the price of drug imports.
Chinese meat officials are due in New Zealand this week for talks about meat access arrangements and New Zealand is hoping meat from some local plants can be fast-tracked for export.
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