Alpaca exports excite

New Zealand has a name for agricultural excellence and they know we have the pedigree records and we can go back several generations to verify stock Kit JohnsonLive alpaca exports to China hold huge potential for New Zealand breeders, including those in Otago and Southland, Silverstream Alpaca Stud owner Kit Johnson, of Kaiapoi, says.

He said the Chinese market was looking for about three million live alpaca to establish a fibre industry.

As vice-president of the Alpaca Association of New Zealand (AANZ), he and other members are working with the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) to develop a set of protocols for exporting live alpacas to China.

He and his wife Sheryl have exported alpacas all over the world and they have their own quarantine facilities at their Kaiapoi property.

''Because I was in the business of exporting live alpaca it fell in my lap to try to put together a protocol for China, for our entire industry,'' Mr Johnson said.

''It has not been done before, for China,''The association has allocated $30,000 for the project and once the protocols have been approved by the MPI, China and the association, the documents will then be published for use by anyone wishing to export the animals.

He said the protocols would include quarantine duration while in New Zealand, what tests needed to be done i.e. for Tb, faecal and blood, as well as for which diseases, animal weights, microchip, tagging and documentation requirements, including declarations from Assure Quality, vets and the MPI.

''All that comes before they leave,'' he said.

More than 500 alpacas were exported from Australia to China in September as a test case and protocols were being developed as a result.

He said there were areas in China that suited alpacas, and the Chinese had carried out research about their suitability to the country and the potential for a profitable fibre industry.

There were about 3000 alpacas in China now, but there was the potential for about three million, he said.

''It will be of huge benefit to New Zealand.''

Mr Johnson said Chinese clients would pay between $1500 to $3000 per commercial animal and a lot more for stud animals.

The Chinese do not wish to buy alpacas from Peru and Chile as they have Tb and foot and mouth disease.

''New Zealand has a name for agricultural excellence and they know we have the pedigree records and we can go back several generations to verify stock.''

Once the protocols were in place, New Zealand alpaca exporters faced a supply issue, as there were only about 40,000 alpacas in the country with only a percentage of those available for sale, and alpacas unpacked (gave birth) about once a year.

There were only a few quarantine facilities in New Zealand and they could only take 70 or 80 at a time, so bigger facilities were required, he said.

If shipments of about 500 animals were wanted, then the exporting co-ordinator would have to deal with at least 20 or 30 farmers at a time, sorting microchipping, tagging, the necessary paperwork and vet inspections, transport etc.

''There are still fishhooks to work through before we know what we are dealing with,'' he said.

''However, it could benefit a lot of farmers.''

He said animals could cope with spending up to 24 hours in a plane with air conditioning, hay and water in the travel crates, video monitoring, and someone travelling with them to sort out any issues during transport or on arrival.

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