Industry organisation NZPork says imported pork enjoys an unfair advantage over locally grown product.
It said while two-thirds of pork consumed in New Zealand is imported, there is no requirement for the products to meet local growing standards.
More than 40,000 tonnes of overseas pork from 22 countries have been imported this year, most from nations which allow farming practices that are banned here.
An analysis of pork imports from January to October by NZPork showed the highest volume of imported pork was from the United States, with 7,336 tonnes.
That was a 128 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2022.
Canada was the next highest at 6,238 tonnes, up from 3,824 tonnes.
Imports from Spain were down, while imports from Australia and the Netherlands increased.
NZPork chief executive Brent Kleiss said pork imports had an unfair advantage over local growers.
“Although the European Union is currently reviewing animal welfare legislation, most EU members and other countries exporting pork to New Zealand have lower standards of pig care and less rigorous enforcement regimes than we do,” Kleiss said.
“For example, gestation stalls are banned here, but in Canada and most European countries, sows can be confined in gestation stalls for the first four weeks of pregnancy, and in the US they can be confined for their entire pregnancy.
“Our farmers do not castrate piglets at all but they are routinely castrated in Europe, the US and Canada – and in Spain, Poland and the US, that is done without pain relief,” he said.
In New Zealand, sows are only housed in farrowing systems when it is time for them to give birth and care for their piglets – with a maximum of five days pre-farrowing and 28 days after.
Most EU countries and the US have no limit on how long a sow can be confined in a farrowing system, either before or after giving birth.
Canada allows up to six weeks.
Kleiss said there had been a significant decline in pork volumes supplied from large European producers where new and proposed legislation around farming was making it harder to farm pigs.
“These pork imports have been replaced by product from the US and Canada, where they are less stringent [regarding] environmental and welfare standards.”
He said New Zealand pig farmers deserved a level playing field.
Kleiss said the new Government needed to subject imported pork to the same stringent standards that are applied to Kiwi farmers.
The pork sector would also like to see Government departments backing local farmers through their food procurement.
“We need regulatory change to ensure pork sellers stop using prominent New Zealand branding on imported products, while only disclosing that the product was made of imported pork in the small print,” Kleiss said.