PKE Ship Sent Packing – Not Too Soon

It is appropriate that the palm kernel expeller (PKE) ship off Tauranga has been sent packing.

For weeks I have been saying this ship needed to be sent away, but it seems as if MPI has been trying to find a way of letting the junk cattle feed in, despite their own rules.

The 23,000 tonnes of PKE had been loaded in part at least from a facility not registered for biosecurity clearance for exporting to NZ. This is despite importers knowing that all PKE processing, storage and loading facilities have to be registered and frequently audited.

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It appears that a large international animal feed broker seemed to think that it could still get a PKE shipment of dubious origins into New Zealand. PKE is a by-product of the all too often unsustainable and controversial palm oil industry, and is seen as a cheap feed supplement for the intensive dairy industry. Large areas of rain forest have been cleared and continue to be cleared to establish palm oil plantations, which is bad for indigenous people, threatened species and climate change. It is unsustainably produced feed for an unsustainable farming system.

Because of biosecurity threats including foot and mouth disease (one of our main economic risks), PKE exports to New Zealand must come from facilities that comply with the Import Health Standards set for it. These include the requirement for the PKE to have:

  • been heat processed to at least 85 degrees Celsius;
  • been stored in factories dedicated to the processing of the palm fruits and kernels
  • been handled and stored in a manner to prevent contamination with any unprocessed plant material, vermin, birds, ruminant animals, faecal material and other animal products;
  • been inspected according to official procedures prior to export
  • been fumigated with phosphine or methyl bromide prior to or during shipment.

Greenpeace’s spokesperson Grant Rosoman has said the PKE “is likely to have come from plantations that are linked to rain forest destruction in Indonesia. So aside from the biosecurity risks, I think there are a number of risks in relation to the environment and exploitation as well.”

Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) Border Clearance Services Director Steve Gilbert has acknowledged that, left untreated, PKE is a significant risk and left untreated could have a whole variety of plant and animal diseases in it. “… heat treatment of palm kernel (is) to mitigate any plant and animal risks and without that it’s not permissible.”

It wasn’t permissible to begin with and should have been sent packing as soon as it came near New Zealand in early September.

That MPI was looking to retrospectively register the Malaysian processing plant, and then shift and store the risky PKE, ahead of heat treating it in New Zealand, is concerning. That they even thought to let the ship in shows MPI’s commitment to unsustainable intensive dairying, and preparedness to bend the rules for a major international agricultural feed stock supplier.

It should not have needed the public alert by Greenpeace, and then political pressure to have turned the ship around. MPI deferred from making a public decision at least five times, suggesting that it was looking for a way to bypass its own rules, before coming to the correct answer and saying NO to discharging the PKE.

For an interesting report on an MPI check up on Malaysian facilities see

Sign our palm oil labelling petition here