New Zealand's pork sector says it is disappointed at a further delay to the introduction of country of origin labelling regulations.
The Government announced regulations covering fresh/chilled food, including pork and cured pork, have been delayed from November 2021 until February 2022.
"We were eagerly awaiting these regulations to come into force in November," chief executive of NZ Pork, David Baines said.
Without the regulations, imported pork could be "hidden" in ham and bacon processed in New Zealand under the label "Made in New Zealand," Baines said.
"Our research tells us that many consumers are surprised that the pork in these products may be imported from a number of countries."
The three month delay was "hugely frustrating" for Kiwi farmers, especially when cheaper pork imports - that didn't have to meet New Zealand's high welfare or environmental standards - could be presented to consumers without clear labelling, Baines said.
"While we appreciate the delay is due to the disruption and uncertainty caused to business by the re-emergence of Covid-19, we are particularly disappointed that the regulations will not be in place for the Christmas period like we expected."
Despite the regulatory delay, NZ Pork still encouraged consumers to look at labels and ask retailers for New Zealand born and raised pork, especially going into the Christmas ham season, Baines said.
The regulations will enable consumers to be more informed as to where their food was imported from, and what pork was New Zealand born and raised, Baines said.
However, NZ Pork remained concerned the regulations were not comprehensive, because they would not apply to all imported pork.
"The regulations will only cover fresh, chilled pork and cured pork. Pork processed in other ways will not have to be labelled," Baines said.
"That means imported pork would be labelled with its country of origin if presented as 'fresh' (chilled), while the same product, if marinated or infused, would sit alongside New Zealand pork and escape the need for labelling as imported."
This was not the first delay for country of origin labelling regulations.
The Government announced an initial delay in May 2020 as part of its measures to manage business disruption due to Covid-19.