Cheaper pork could be on the cards for New Zealand - but the pork industry says any discounts may eventually come at a high cost.

The industry is appealing against a change in import rules that could allow raw pork to be imported from countries including Canada, where demand has dropped after several setbacks, including swine flu.

New Zealand Pork chief executive Sam McIvor said shoppers in the United States and Canada had stopped buying pork because of the swine flu outbreak, but Kiwis had been "very rational" and continued to buy it.

But now the industry fears another illness will affect business.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry-Biosecurity New Zealand has released a provisional "import health standard" report that would change import restrictions to allow consumer-ready cuts of raw pork into the country.

Pork industry representatives say that could lead to the introduction of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), a condition that affects a pig's metabolism.

At present imported pork must be heat-treated or cured but the industry is worried that if raw pork is allowed here, pigs could be fed remnants of the raw meat and become infected with PRRS.

MAF and BNZ granted an independent review on the issue this month, after the pork industry argued to keep the present restrictions in place.

Mr McIvor said the "cheap" meat could end up in New Zealand because the Canadian Government had given a $100 million package help its to struggling farmers.

Internationally, the pork industry has struggled in the past year because of increasing grain prices.

But he said times had been particularly tight for Canadian farmers because of swine flu and because of changes to "country of origin" labelling in the US which cut demand for their pork drop because American shoppers preferred their own products.

The Canadian Government's intervention means farmers can stop producing and selling pork, which Mr McIvor says could result in Canadian pork being bought and sold cheaper than New Zealand's pork, undermining local farmers.

Mr McIvor said it was unlikely farmers would feed their pigs unprocessed meat but a lot of "backyard" farmers might do so unwittingly.

MAF-BNZ's group manager of animal imports and exports, Matthew Stone, said restricting raw pork imports to New Zealand to consumer-ready cuts would effectively manage the risk of PRRS.