Meatworks 'humming' despite China blunder

Nathan Guy
Nathan Guy
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy on Friday admitted it would ''take time'' for Chinese authorities to approve the resumption of meat exports from the Pukeuri meat plant, but denied accusations from the Labour Party that the delay was due to stuff cuts within the ministry.

MPI twice suspended the Alliance Group's Pukeuri processing plant's licence to export to China in July, and then a month later also suspended the licence of the Lean Meats processing plant in Oamaru, because of a labelling error.

Although Lean Meats was allowed to resume exportation at the start of October, China has still not given approval for Pukeuri exports to enter the country, and Labour Party primary industries spokesman Damien O'Connor said the delay showed the Government was ''not doing enough'' to fix the problem.

''Mr Guy had his hand forced in admitting that he gone too far in stripping MPI of staff and resources by senior colleague Tim Groser last month and vowed to increase resources in China, yet clearly not enough to help Pukeuri.''

Labour Party officials on Friday suggested the ministry had shed 233 jobs since it was formed through the merger of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Ministry of Fisheries and the New Zealand Food Safety Authority in 2011, and had also received $26 million less funding through departmental output expenses since 2009.

Mr O'connor said those cuts had lessened the ministry's ability to help the situation at Pukeuri.

''If the ministry had not been gutted by the Government in the first place, it would have had the staff in China to help with Pukeuri's recertification.

''Nathan Guy was quick to blame the ministry for the massive Chinese meat export blunder back in May. He should have been pointing the finger back at himself.''

Pukeuri should be ''humming'' by this point in the season, and the Government ''disinterest'' was again letting down the regions, he said.

However, Mr Guy said MPI had recertified the plant for export and was now waiting for sign-off from China.

''This takes time, as it does in any country. It has nothing to do with our resources in China.

''The reality is that the holdup in recertification to China was caused by mistakes by Alliance, not by MPI or China.

''There were two separate mistakes by Alliance, which they have acknowledged, which caused the suspension.''

Although 240 seasonal workers were stood down for a month following the second suspension, they returned to work in September after the plant passed a MPI audit, and Mr Guy said the Pukeuri plant was ''humming'' at present.

''Mr O'Connor doesn't seem to be aware that over 600 employees are busy working at Pukeuri, processing products for the European and North American markets - the plant is humming.

''I cannot take Damien O'Connor seriously when he talks about supporting the regions, because his party is opposed to irrigation, the Primary Growth Partnership, and roads of national significance which will allow product to get to ports more efficiently. Labour also aren't supporting the TPP trade deal which is worth billions of dollars to our exporters.''

A labelling error and the incorrect exportation of products to China from a facility that was not listed by Chinese authorities were the reasons behind the problems at Pukeuri.

Alliance Group processing manager Kerry Stevens said although the Chinese export situation at Pukeuri remained unchanged, the plant was producing product for other markets.

''There are currently over 600 people employed at the plant.''

Lean Meats Ltd chief executive Richard Thorp said he was '' very, very pleased'' Lean Meats had been able to restart exports to China.

The plant had been ''back into it'' from early October and was now busier at this time of year than it had been ''for a long time''.

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