Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

China clears Kiwi meat - Minister

New Zealand meat shipments stranded for weeks on Chinese wharves have received clearance from Chinese authorities, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says.

Mr Guy's announcement came as he was under pressure from the Opposition over his handling of the three week old Chinese meat blockade.

Mr Guy said the New Zealand Embassy in Beijing had this afternoon told him Chinese biosecurity agency AQSIQ had now confirmed it had all the information it needed to authorise ports to start clearing the first 245 priority consignments of meat from today.

" Importers and agents will then be able to collect their shipments", Mr Guy said.
"These consignments have been delayed the longest. New certificates for these were delivered to AQSIQ on Friday last week.

"The remaining 1355 certificates for delayed consignments will be delivered to AQSIQ today."

"It will take some time to clear the backlog, but it's positive we will have meat moving into the hands of Chinese consumers again."

Mr Guy this morning again said the problem was documentation issued by the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) on new forms which had been rejected by AQSIQ.

He said MPI officials responsible for the bungle had apologized to their Chinese counterparts, ministers and the meat industry.

Having known of the problem now for the last two week, Mr Guy said neither he or the meat industry itself were sure how much meat was involved.

Compensation for affected exporters was "a discussion that the Director-General of MPI is having with the industry" but it hadn't been raised with him.

But Labour Leader David Shearer said serious questions were emerging over Mr Guy's handling of the problem.

"This is a fiasco. Nathan Guy's been sitting on his hands, he's blaming his officials, you've got ask whether the guy should still be in his job."

It was "unbelievable" Mr Guy didn't know how much meat was involved or how much the delay was costing exporters.

"Surely he can have some estimation of how much meat is sitting on the wharves. If he doesn't have that information it doesn't give us much confidence to us about whether he can get the things freed up."

Labour's primary industries spokesman Damien O'Connor said Mr Guy had handled the issue, "appallingly".

"He's not been on top of the issue right from day one, he's not had the information available, he's kept making statements to the public and to the meat industry that reassures them but he's not met one of those deadlines.

There will growing concern, there's issues now with apples we've found out about at the Russian border so I'm fearful that the whole restructure of the Ministry of Primary Industries has been a massive failure and they're going to have to unwind that reassure some of our trading partners that our certification process is indeed above board."

"The Prime Minister has to take a serious look at how the minister has handled this issue."

- NZ Herald

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