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NZ stops issuing beef, lamb export certificates to China at request of Beijing

Monday 20th May 2013

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New Zealand has stopped issuing export certificates for beef and lamb bound for China pending resolution of a paperwork glitch that has left frozen product sitting on Chinese wharves.

Ministry for Primary Industries deputy director-general Andrew Coleman told reporters at Parliament that he couldn't say how much meat was caught by the hold up, which has been blamed on a misunderstanding over paperwork.

He wouldn't be more specific, saying Chinese officials were only now returning to work after the weekend and New Zealand officials would be meeting them today.

"Certificates will not be issued at the request of Chinese authorities," Coleman said.

China has become a biggest buyer of New Zealand lamb this year. Initial reports said the hold up may have been due to the change in the authorising body for New Zealand meat transferring to MPI on March 1 from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

But Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said product had flowed freely after that date and delays had only cropped up in the past couple of weeks.

MPI officials had learned of the problem on Monday last week and informed Guy on Tuesday, he said.

Subsequently he got calls from meat companies "and I realised it was a bigger issue than what my officials had been telling me," Guy said.

He said it wasn't unusual for glitches to occur across all of New Zealand's export markets from time to time, though no other countries had signalled current concerns with New Zealand export documentation.

Other than sheep meat and beef, New Zealand products were flowing into China as normal, he said.

Resolving the issue may take some days, he said.

Meat Industry Association spokesman Dan Coup said New Zealand meat companies first learned of the hold-up on Chinese wharves when customers weren't able to uplift their consignments.

"The industry remains very anxious about this," he said.

Individual meat companies deferred to the MIA for comment.

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