by Steffan Browning
The High Court last week upheld MAF’s (now MPI’s) decision-making processes for deciding on new import standards. This means that the import of untreated pig meat from countries infected with Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) will be allowed. This is a major issue for New Zealand Pig Farmers. The Green Party has long held the view that we should support and protect our primary producers and at the moment, one of the most vulnerable are our pig farmers.
New Zealand’s pig farmers have already been affected by the import of pig meat, most of which is imported from countries with lower or non-existent animal welfare codes, food handling and food safety standards. Cheap imported pork has driven down prices forcing many farmers out of business and leaving many others to consider their options because their returns don’t cover their cost of production.
What I find most interesting about the decision to relax the import standards for untreated pig meat is that there seems to be no thought given to New Zealand’s pig farmer and their pig’s. Allowing raw pork to be imported dramatically increases the risk of PRRS spreading to New Zealand. PRRS means a long slow painful death for infected pigs. It is not preventable and could annihilate the industry here. If that were to happen we’d be only eating imported pig meat. This is unacceptable, when we have pig farmers here making a real effort to farm their pigs in an environmentally acceptable way and taking in to account the welfare of their animals, albeit following years of lobbying from the likes of Sue Kedgley.
What’s more, if PRRS were to be found in New Zealand, the new Government Industry Agreements would require the industry itself to fund half of the response to the outbreak. This disadvantages the pig farmer even more – they have to pay for the Government’s decision. Our ability to feed our nation from locally grown food is vital to our economy. We need to support our local producers. Their success is our success.