New Zealand meat exports to China continue despite rule change

WELLINGTON, July 8 Sun Jul 7, 2013 10:32pm EDT

WELLINGTON, July 8 (Reuters) - New Zealand says it has prevented a major stalling of the multi-million dollar meat export trade with China for the second time in two months over regulatory issues.

China issued new rules in late June requiring a change in the certification of meat, catching New Zealand officials and exporters by surprise and resulting in meat shipments being held at Chinese ports.

"We have worked on a pragmatic solution to enable current consignments to be cleared and trade to continue," New Zealand food safety minister Nikki Kaye said in a statement.

One shipment was caught in the northern port of Dalian because it did not have the proper documentation, but arrangements have been made to cover shipments in transit, which should have little or no delay.

New Zealand meat exports to China more than doubled to NZ$670 million ($523 million) in the year to April.

In May, tens of thousands of tonnes of New Zealand meat shipments were held at Chinese ports because of confusion over export certificates, in what was called a technical issue.

The trade problems come at a time when Chinese authorities are taking a tougher approach on food safety, amid reports that meat described as beef, pork, or lamb was fake or tainted.

China is New Zealand's second biggest export market, and a significant buyer of agricultural goods, especially dairy produce, with the Fonterra Co-operative Ltd a major supplier of milk powder, the source ingredient for infant formula.

Chinese competition authorities are currently investigating foreign makers of infant formula for possible price fixing and anticompetitive activity.

(Reporting by Gyles Beckford; Editing by Michael Perry)