New Zealand’s Court of Appeal has rejected a pork industry plea over new trade rules, which will allow imports of raw, untreated pork from countries where Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) is present.
NZ Pork had claimed that the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) did not follow the correct decision-making process when developing its new Import Health Standard (IHS), which changes the current rule that all pork from countries with PRRS should be treated before import.
However, the Court of Appeal backed an earlier High Court decision that the MPI had followed due process, meaning it can introduce the new import rules once the interim orders granted to NZ Pork expire in 14 days.
Under the new regulations, only consumer-ready cuts which weigh less than 3kg and are free from specific lymphatic tissue can be imported without further treatment. The MPI claimed this will pose no risk to New Zealand’s pork producers and said its “primary concern” when developing the new rules was to “manage the risk” of diseases such as PRRS establishing in New Zealand. It said it had spent almost a decade assessing all available science before introducing the new import rules.
“Agriculture is vitally important to our economy. In order to protect our primary producers from biosecurity risks, it is essential we do the right thing when developing import health standards and that we base them on the best available science,” said MPI director-general Wayne McNee.
NZ Pork said it was “very disappointed” by the court’s decision and still had concerns over the risk that the new IHS constitutes.
“We know that 100% biosecurity effectiveness is not possible, but we can strive for biosecurity measures that are effective enough to protect our economy. We cannot afford for a devastating disease like PRRS to enter New Zealand,” said chairman Ian Carter.
However, Carter added he believed that NZ Pork and the MPI could work together effectively on the issue. “We have a shared objective and investment in New Zealand’s biosecurity integrity. We all want the same thing,” he said.
Federated Farmers also raised concerns about the new IHS, warning that the Court of Appeal ruling left “considerable uncertainty” for pig farmers.
Dr William Rolleston, Federated Farmers Food Production spokesperson, said: “New Zealand’s PRRS-free status was one tangible advantage to our domestic industry, not to mention the obvious benefit to animal health and welfare. Yet the science over the risk of PRRS entering New Zealand in imported pigmeat seems uncertain at best.”
Rolleston added that Federated Farmers had concerns that packages of 3kg were likely to be trimmed further by hotels, restaurants and butchers, and the waste could end up being fed to pigs in backyards.
“The biosecurity issue is less about commercial piggeries, but rather, the thousands of pigs in back yards. MPI has no convincing plan to enforce feeding regulations on those back yards where almost no controls exist over what these animals are fed, let alone animal health. These uncontrolled back yards become the possible vector for PRRS,” he said.
He said Federated Farmers was now calling on the MPI to reasses the IHS in light of concerns raised by the pork industry. “We believe there is no issue with World Trade Organization rules, as long as any reassessment is based upon good science”.