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NZ Pork Import Plan Gets Industry Worried

by 5m Editor
28 August 2009, at 10:01am

NEW ZEALAND - A proposal to allow the importation of raw pork meat from overseas could devastate the industry, southern business groups and farmers said.

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry-Biosecurity New Zealand has released a draft "import health standard" report that would allow consumer-ready cuts of uncooked pork into the country.

But the pork industry is appealing the import rule change, fearing it could lead to the introduction of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS).

Business and Professional Women Incorporated Southland president Anne McCracken said allowing the product into the country was an unacceptable and unnecessary risk.

Southland was an agricultural province and any threat to the industry needed to be addressed seriously, she said.

"The moment you bring it (PRRS) in, how are you going to get it out again?" she said.

"I don't want it to be manageable, I don't want it to happen at all."

Former Thornbury pig farmer Nathan Ronald said the proposed rule change was a real concern and the ministry should have learnt its lesson in 2004 when another disease, post-weaning multi-systematic wasting syndrome, made its way into the South Island.

Mr Ronald had been considering re-entering the pig farming business but if the import laws were relaxed he would have to reassess the risk, he said.

According to Stuff.co.nz, biotechnology company Living Cell Technologies was granted approval in June to begin clinical trials involving the transplanting of cells from Auckland Island pigs into people with diabetes.

The pigs are housed in a disease-free facility in Awarua and the research could potentially inject millions of dollars into the Southland economy.

Living Cell Technologies chief operating officer Paul Tan said there would be little risk of the Auckland Island pigs contracting PRRS because of the isolated conditions they were kept in.

However, he could not see the reason for allowing the importation of uncooked pork as New Zealand had a sufficient supply already, he said.

Ministry animal imports and exports group manager Matthew Stone said the questions raised by the groups would be addressed by the independent review but was confident the measures proposed would adequately manage the risk.

"Primarily, it comes down to restricting imports to tissues that do have a low level of infectivity ... and importing those products in a form that minimises their use as waste," he said.

Further Reading

- Find out more information on PRRS by clicking here.