China rejected the meat imports after New Zealand’s Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) issued export certificates in a new format, which had not been approved by authorities at the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ).
The MPI said last week that it was workng with AQSIQ to reissue the certificates in the old format and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy told the New Zealand parliament this morning that the correct paperwork had been sent, and he had been informed by the New Zealand embassy in Beijing that China had given clearance for the imports to begin.
The situation has led to anger in the New Zealand meat industry. Federated Farmers, which represents livestock farmers, said the MPI needed to take a “long hard look in the mirror”.
“China is our largest market for lamb by volume and, in the first quarter of 2013, surpassed Britain in terms of value for the first time ever. This is what was at stake, so it is embarrassing to discover the fault lay here in New Zealand," said Federated Farmers president and trade spokesperson Bruce Wills.
“It feels as if we have been ankle-tapped by a member of our own team.”
MPI’s acting director-general Andrew Coleman has apologised to exporters for the mistake, and said the department would look more carefully at what happened, including why the issue was not made clear to Ministers sooner.
“Making sure the details are right around export certification is part of MPI’s core responsibility. We issue some 7,000 meat and seafood export certificates a month, with associated transfer documents numbering about 40,000. It’s critically important that New Zealand’s exporters and trading partners can be confident that the certification we provide is correct,” he said.
“When this issue has been sorted out, we will be taking a very hard look at our processes to find out how this happened and make sure it never happens again.”