Archive for the ‘Biosecurity’ Category

Resistance or resilience – which best characterises the red meat sector?

July 28, 2016

The Red Meat Sector Conference held in Auckland on Monday did not have one single theme, but a series of themes across the day, starting with the question ‘resistance or resilience?’ Past history suggests the answer might most logically be both rather than a choice between the two options. (more…)

Upbeat conference attracts 200+ delegates

July 28, 2016

The delegates at the 2016 Red Meat Sector Conference were challenged and entertained by a stimulating range of guest speakers and New Zealand icons the Topp Twins. (more…)

Past, present and future of the meat industry (Part 3)

July 2, 2016

The future

There are two diametrically opposing views on the meat industry’s future outlook: either the world is short of protein and has an insatiable appetite for what we produce or meat will be replaced by artificial or synthetic proteins, much cheaper and easier to produce. (more…)

Irish approach may be better than New Zealand’s

June 26, 2016

The Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s (DAFM) 10 year strategy report named Foodwise 2025 contains a lot of the same features as MPI’s ambition to double agricultural exports over a similar timeframe. (more…)

Changing world will suit our red meat sector

June 24, 2016

When sheep and beef farmers are questioning whether they will ever receive the returns they need, there is potentially considerable hope for the future. The changing demographics and spheres of global influence indicate a substantial change in the relative economic power of the markets with which we trade. (more…)

Trade negotiations like water dripping on a stone

April 28, 2016

Before he left for China last week, New Zealand’s Special Agricultural Trade Envoy, Mike Petersen, gave me his thoughts on the process of trade negotiation and a brief list of successes he has been involved with since 2003. At that time he was Chairman of Meat & Wool NZ as it was called in those days. (more…)

Address to MIRINZ workshop – How and why research is important for the future

March 19, 2016
  1. Themes

 

The three main themes for this workshop are:

 

  1. Added value products focusing on key points of differentiation in NZ meat products with a research emphasis on credible health and nutritional benefits.
  2. Value from quality – research outcomes that will enable the red meat sector to meet increasing demand for high value premium meat products in existing and new markets.
  • Provenance and food assurance – research from fork to farm to ensure that exports are safe, of superior quality with defendable provenance and attractive to consumers.

(more…)

Research is critical to future prosperity

March 16, 2016

By the time most of you read this, I will have delivered an address to a Meat Industry Research workshop at Ruakura. Preparation for this has severely taxed my knowledge of research directed at the future prosperity of the red meat sector. Depending on the reaction to my presentation, I will almost certainly find out whether or not I have succeeded in talking sense and, more important, introducing some relevant fresh ideas to the audience of scientists and people with infinitely greater technical credentials than I. (more…)

NAIT satisfaction with progress suggests complacency

March 2, 2016

In July last year I raised the problem of accurately identifying and recording all cattle movements, citing the issues experienced by a farmer friend who had no success in reconciling stock on his farm with NAIT’s records. The farmer had contacted NAIT which eventually got back to him, but the process of reconciliation was several weeks out of date. (more…)

MPI’s food safety responsibility still causing major problems

December 11, 2015

In January this year I wrote a column which argued the Primary Industries Ministry risked losing focus on two of its core responsibilities, namely food safety and biosecurity, as a direct consequence of merging MAF, NZ Food Safety Authority and Bio-Security New Zealand into a single mega government agency.

I cited the Fonterra whey protein botulism scare as an example of the new agency dropping the ball.

The WPC80 report into that incident stated “overall there was a lack of commitment to ensuring readiness to deal with a food safety event” quoting a senior official as acknowledging nobody had taken ownership of food safety.

The report went on to say the gap had since been closed.

Recent events like the Hepatitis A cases from frozen berries from China, antibiotic-resistant campylobacter in chickens distributed by three of the four largest North Island producers and last year’s outbreak of gastrointestinal bug yersinia suggest the gap remains open.

In the meantime, MPI maintains weeks or even months of secrecy before it discloses information about the identity of suppliers or the source of the problem.

Even worse, sometimes, as in the case of the yersinia outbreak, the named culprit is found not to be the source after all.

I argued at the time MPI’s four key areas of focus, as listed in its 2014 annual report, were as follows: maximise export opportunities, increase sustainable resource use, improve sector productivity and protect from biological risk.

It seemed then and still seems staggering that the most important role of all, protection from biological risk, should come last instead of first in this list of priorities.

In case people think this is just semantics, consider the benefits of the previous structure when NZFSA was split out from MAF in 2002 and run as a sole-purpose government department between 2006 and 2011.

NZ’s food safety reputation was at an all time high among our trading partners and I struggle to remember any serious food disease outbreaks, although I might not be entirely correct.

The food safety performance of the red meat sector still demonstrates the excellence of the standards put in place under MAF and NZFSA.

 

Unfortunately, the performance of Bio-Security NZ under MAF control was not as impressive during the first decade of the 21 st century, as kiwifruit growers hit by the Psa virus would testify.

The value proposition for the creation of MPI argued there was a risk of divergence in areas of regulatory policy and standard-setting, cost recovery and international standards.

Given NZ’s unique biosecurity and trade needs, the regulatory programme was not considered optimal for creating economic advantage for NZ.

However, the most important point of protecting NZ’s borders from biosecurity risks and consumers from food safety events appears to have been taken as a given, rather than disciplines requiring single-minded focus.

The National Government’s main objective has been to achieve greater efficiency and cost-effectiveness of outcomes by means of structural changes but there is a danger this focus might result in the baby being thrown out with the bath water.

I have read one comment which calls for the responsibility for food safety to be handed back to the Ministry of Health because its sole focus is public health.

The same writer also argues MPI has a conflict of interest between its priority to protect consumers and protection of food producers.

I would argue MPI’s main focus is not on producers but on economic gain for NZ, as shown by its first three areas of focus – export growth, sector productivity and sustainable resource use.

It is very easy to claim this is absolutely consistent with maintaining first-class food safety and bio-security but the point is MPI does have a conflict of interest.

Which of the four areas of focus should they concentrate on?

If the Government insists on doubling exports by 2025 while improving sector productivity and resource allocation, it isn’t difficult to see where food safety and bio-security sit in the queue.

I spoke to Labour’s primary sector spokesman Damian O’Connor about this issue in January.

He was adamant MPI is too big and has a conflict of interests between its regulatory and compliance responsibilities as well as its goal of maximising exports while the increasing quest for trade freedom is at variance with the protection of NZ’s biologically-based economy and reputation.

He wanted to see separate food safety and biosecurity agencies established outside MPI.

 

Unfortunately, I can’t see this happening before the next election at the earliest but it looks to me more and more as though we should evaluate this as an option.

At the very least we should assess the risks to NZ health and reputation of continuing as we are.