New Zealand meat exports being held up in Chinese ports represent a “bureaucratic blockade” that may have been caused by Chinese efforts to curb counterfeit meat sales, according to news reports.
That’s a glass-half-full explanation.
A substantial but undetermined amount of New Zealand lamb, mutton and beef is sitting in containers after Chinese officials determined there were problems with the documentation.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said that Carl Worker, the country’s ambassador to China, had confirmed the problem was “a technical issue.”
“The Chinese were waiting for some updated information from the Ministry of Primary Industries, which I understand has now been provided,” Key told Reuters. “The Chinese are working through the information quickly and constructively and we're hopeful the issue will be resolved this week.
“That’s quite a good long-term thing, because they are working on making sure there’s a more robustness about their system,” he added. “Therefore, the issue of counterfeit meat, meat that is claimed to have come from New Zealand but maybe wasn’t from New Zealand, can be combated.”
That’s a glass-totally-full explanation.
A paperwork problem?
Of course, this holdup is more than merely a matter of “technical details.” According to a report by Bloomberg, China is New Zealand’s largest export customer and its biggest buyer of milk powder and dairy products. China’s purchases of New Zealand beef and mutton more than tripled to $230 million in the first quarter of 2013, versus a year earlier. Combined those exports comprise about 17% of the country’s entire meat export trade.
“Chinese have got a very significant appetite for New Zealand meat,” Key noted. “They see New Zealand as a very good supplier. The potential for meat exports to China is exponential.”
Potential being the operative word.
Reportedly, hundreds of tons of meat are held up, as the blockage has been in place for as long as three or four weeks, news reports suggested. That takes it beyond the realm of a mere “paperwork problem.”
Allegedly, Chinese authorities blocked imports of meat when the Ministry of Primary Industries, the New Zealand ministry that certifies the authenticity of the products—and the safety of the country’s processing plants—changed its name.
However, the name change took effect on March 1, and MPI Deputy Director-General Andrew Coleman was unable to state exactly what the documentation problem was.