Pork industry given chop by High Court decision

A judicial review by the Wellington High Court may allow the world’s worst pig disease to destroy New Zealand’s $1 billion pork industry.

The sector will need to “carefully consider” the court's decision in a case brought by NZPork asking for a review of the Ministry of Primary Industry’s (MPI) proposed import health standards for pigmeat.

A decision handed down on Friday does not support NZPork’s challenge of new import health standards. It had been referred to the court in August.

“It is crucial the industry’s concerns are addressed, and NZPork now needs to carefully and fully review the judgment,” chairman Ian Carter says.

“Allowing imports of potentially diseased meat could put our broader primary industry at risk. 

"It would be taking a gamble that our farmers cannot afford to lose.

"Biosecurity is key to New Zealand’s economic security, and we risk it at our peril," Mr Carter says.

A group of worried producers last Tuesday MP Shane Ardern, chairman of the Primary Production Select Committee, to express their concerns.

They are fighting to stop the relaxation of import rules which could see the Porcine Reproductive Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) established.

The commercially devastating disease has been described as the industry as its “No 1 enemy”.

New Zealand is one of the few countries which have had no reported cases.

Under the proposed standards, restaurants would be able to import meat, which could be infected, provided it weighs less than 3kg.

The industry is concerned about the “very real risk” thousands of pigs kept outside commercial pig farms may be infected as they are often fed scraps directly from restaurant kitchens and local food outlets.  

Although the disease does not affect humans, birds are carriers and could spread the infection to commercial pig farms.

Any imported PRRS infected meat is heat treated at one of New Zealand's 27 transitional facilities before it is sold.

The disease, which is rife in the United States, costs the pork industry there $US 1 billion a year.

Last week's visit Parliament, the industry's sixth, is yet another step in a long and protracted process with the Ministry of Primary Industries, formerly the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

Producers say they want to protect their industry from disease and not competition.

Almost 800,000kg of pork is imported weekly under current rules.

In August 2009 the minsitry's director-general agreed to an independent review of provisional import health standards for pig meat and pig meat products after a request by NZPork.

While the independent panel’s 29 recommendations confirmed NZPork's concerns, few of these have been acted on by the ministry.

It says the risk of introducing PPRS will be “effectively managed through the application of the measures in the Import Health Standards”.

Modelling work shows removal of lymph nodes and restricting fresh meat imposts to consumer-ready cuts weighing no more than 3kg effectively manages the disease risk.

However, the decision to relax import rules seems to contradict the ministry’s concerns over biosecurity.

It estimates the direct annual output losses from pest management at $1.15 billion, while the combined cost of PSA, varroa and the tomato/ potato Pysllid is estimated to add at least $ 500 million in direct and indirect costs.

A KPMG report released this week says the tomato-potato Psyllid is also taking a toll on the tamarillo crop.

The Tamarillo Growers Association says that since its arrival the annual crop has been reduced by almost two-thirds to 260 tonnes, which has had a significant impact on the industry.

While MPI estimates the short-term financial impact of PRRS would cost tens of millions of dollars, the industry says that for every 1000 tonnes of lost pork production, $7.3 million will be lost from the wider economy.

The industry wants an inquiry into why the ministry wants to risk exposing the industry to such a devastating disease and has also met opposition parties to express its concerns.

“Bad policy is a gamble New Zealand farmers and its economy cannot afford to lose,” the group says in its submission to parliamentarians.

The High Court decision is a blow to the industry’s efforts.

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14 Comments & Questions

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Why would anyone want to risk spoiling this land of milk and honey (and meat)?
Sounds mad.

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Because NZ needs to be more than milk and meat.

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I agree, I'm all for the knowledge economy and high tech industries. Let's make it cheap and easy for students to learn and stop arresting tech-heads.

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Well done "High Court". Hopefully gone are the bad old days where one sector can get protection from competition using false logic to fool the authorities.

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As a NZ Pork Producer, this decision by the High Court is Insane, and with reference to Mr Morrisons quip about protection from competition how stupid is that when 800,000 kgs are comming into NZ per WEEK, this is about protecting our Biosecurity borders, which MAF havent got a good track record at doing lately, have they Mr Morrison, Bee Keepers, Kiwifruit, potatoe growers, now Tamarrillo growers, whats next Pork Indusrty, then WHO?

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Another example of our Judges making Rulings in areas that they have no expertise, nor understanding of the probable ramifications of their decision. Happens every day in our Courts.

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if those that make such decisions were accountable - pay for any cleanup or industry costs coping with new pests and diseases - e.g kiwifruit industry [PSA ], beekeeping industry [ varroa ] perhaps more care would be put into such decisions.

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if prrs infected meat is allowed in what is to stop foot and mouth

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I think its great cheap pork .we should import beef lamb milk powder as well From all over so then we will get foot and mouth and that wil mean we will all have to become Vegans . Great and i can go on the DOL .

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WTF? This is daft, almost as those daft clowns who allowed kiwifruit pollen to be imported from China - didn't that do well. If people voted with their feet you could change the situation overnight.

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Is this more National Party ideological madness?

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would those that support this decision be prepared to pay double or triple for their weekly grocery bill?

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Overpriced, watery, tasteless bacon.

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What is wrong with the decision makers of our country? Why aren't we protecting our primary producers? To survive we have to become more insular and protect our our industries, its just ridiculous. Its not only PRRS that will come - there is also the risk of Foot and Mouth and it's the Free Range pigs that are most at risk.
Come on NZ eat ya own -
insist on 100% NZ Pork and BACON

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