Association blasts New Zealand inspection plan

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: New zealand, Meat, Government

Plans by the New Zealand government to streamline meat inspections
services to a single provider were branded as
"misguided" late last week by one of the country's leading
trade organisations.

The proposals have come under fire amidst growing concern by the meat industry that it will face increased costs to test its products. As such, the Meat Industry Association (MIA) stated that it was "staggered​" by the government's adherence to a plan directing state-owned inspection group AgriQuality not to compete against rival Asure for the provision of export services. The government believes the anti-competitive measures can reduce costs relating to the running of the business units of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries These claims are refuted by the MIA though, which believes that reduced competitiveness within testing would drive up the price for vital checks for diseases like tuberculosis (TB), as a result hampering the wider meat export industry. "The possibility of competition is an important check against abuse of market power, and we cannot believe the government is indifferent to this reality, and wants to take that check away without putting something equally effective in its place,"​ said Bill Falconer, the MIA's chairman. The proposals were first put forward last July by government, which cited the need to boost the efficiency of food testing in the country. The two testing bodies would be merged to create greater co-operation between them. However, Falconer believes that the changes are unsubstantiated as the country's reputation for meat production is not in doubt. "Quite simply, New Zealand's international reputation for food safety is not at issue, nor is the question of whether only one aspect of the food safety environment - ante and post mortem examination - is provided by one or more entities,"​ he said. "I have to say that in the 47 years I have been in and around government, I have never seen a major trade organisation be treated so shabbily.It is ironic that this should be occurring in designated 'Export Year'." ​Though New Zealand government has yet to respond the industry's reaction, the proposal has received backing from the chair of AgriQuality, who praised the planned merger as a vital step in upgrading existing testing procedures."Greater integration of AgriQuality's food safety and biosecurity infrastructure with Asure's operational expertise especially, in meat inspection services, has the potential to enhance our ability to deal with any bio-security threat the country may face,"​ stated Rakihia Tau. "[The merger] would have the added advantage of allowing effective traceability of food from the paddock right through to the supermarket shelf, strengthening access to international markets across the breadth of the supply chain."

Related topics: Policy, Food safety, Oceania

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