Covid-19 has brought massive disruptions and huge cost increases to the world's shipping routes.
Producers are already struggling against imported pork and recent lockdown restrictions.
General manager of Harrington’s Smallgoods, Angus Black, claims this decision is counterintuitive to the current reality NZ pork farmers and producers are facing, at a time when they need local support the most.
New laws were passed in late 2018 around the origin of food products, including cured pork like bacon and ham. However, due to the disruption caused by COVID-19, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has announced a 12-month delay in recommending the regulations.
“MBIE has cited disruption in the food sector due to COVID-19 as a reason for the delay. However, the need for consumers to be able to identify and buy local has never been so urgent,” Black says.
“Our farmers are struggling. Before the Level 4 lockdown, around 40% of all NZ born-and-raised pork went to restaurants, bars, cafes and independent butchers. With reduced capacity and demand in the foodservice sector, as well as butchers not being permitted to open to customers, our farmers are under intense pressure to get pork to consumers,” Black says.
Local pig producers have been encouraging people to only to buy NZ-raised and farmed pork. But Black says current labelling is confusing and makes it hard for consumers to identify where their bacon or ham comes from.
“Now we face a lengthy wait to gain the clarity we have been promised and deserve,” he says.
“I’m urging the Government to listen to the sector and deliver what it is asking for – not wait another 12 months.”
Black says the new labelling regulations are now not due until June 2021 and will only come into force in December 2021 – more than 18 months from now.
He says Harrington’s Smallgoods has submitted and provided feedback on the Consumer’s Right to Know (Country of Origin of Food) Act at each stage, and is currently asking the Government to also include sausages within the regulations and more clearly prescribe the rules around the size and placement of the country of origin labels.
The NZ Pork Board estimates the NZ Pork industry is worth $750 million each year to New Zealand.