NZ officials fluffed timing of changes to export certificates, stalled meat in China
By Jonathan Underhill
Aug 1 (BusinessDesk) – New Zealand meat exports ended up stalled on Chinese wharves and further shipments were forced to
turn back after officials fluffed the name change on export certificates after the creation of the Ministry for Primary
Industries, a review has found.
The ministry has accepted blame for its mis-handling of the changes and sluggishness in alerting more senior officials
and ministers, leaving them to face questions from the media they couldn’t adequately answer.
“Mistakes were made at various levels and at various times,” acting MPI director-general Scott Gallacher told reporters
in Wellington at the release of the report. “We did not deal with them effectively or quickly enough.”
Some $100 million of meat was held up in May and June as a result of the switch to Ministry for Primary Industries from
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. The name change was implemented on March 1 before the new certificates had been
approved by officials at China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ).
The report shows officials only advised AQSIQ on Feb. 6, meaning New Zealand didn’t give China the full one-month notice
it requires before the change. In any event, AQSIQ wasn’t happy with mock-ups of the new certificates and as late as
Feb. 19 were asking for changes. Ministers only found out about the stalled meat on May 14, a full two weeks after meat
companies first advised that certificates were being rejected.
The report shows that prior to the March 1 name change a New Zealand official in China had flagged problems meeting that
date on a number of occasions, only to be told by MPI officials in Wellington that it was “set in stone.”
But it also shows a series of missteps including a conversation between that official and the ministry on Feb. 19 where
the parties took away different understandings of what certificates were to be used from March 1, given the Chinese
Officials also misjudged the situation as being an everyday paperwork glitch of which they dealt with many around the
world in the normal course of their business. They had expected it to be cleared up “within a few days” and “through the
Chinese officials also were not available at key times during the saga, which slowed the New Zealand officials’
response. Still, the MPI doesn’t apportion any blame to China or to any other government agencies in the report,
As a result of the review, MPI is doubling staff in its Wellington-based market access team to 16 from eight, having
noted that the team hadn’t seen the need to escalate the situation early on and had since commented that they would
behave in the same way again.
The ministry will also develop a strategy for China, develop a new issues management system in collaboration with the
meat industry and improve processes to identify and manage risks to trade. They are among 25 management actions MPI says
it is making in response to the review, with a target date of July 2012.