The Meat Industry Association fears trade with Europe could go backwards.
The concern comes as the negotiation of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the European Union (EU) ticks towards its deadline of the end of June.
While nothing official has been said, leaked information suggests the EU wants to offer New Zealand even less access for meat sales than it already has.
“If these reports are true, then New Zealand red meat exporters would continue to face an unlevel playing field in the EU,” Meat Industry Association chief executive Sirma Karapeeva said.
“We are not prepared to back a deal which offers poor access for our red meat to this important market.”
These comments come as European Trade Ministers gather to discuss the matter and New Zealand’s senior trade negotiator Vengelis Vitalis prepares to return to Brussels after a brief respite back home.
Karapeeva would not give details about the leaked information.
She is keeping quiet about the numbers involved and would only say the leak came from “industry sources” – meaning farming organisations within Europe.
But she said a leak from the same source about an earlier piece of information turned out to be correct, so she had confidence in the information about the latest offer.
Karapeeva went on to say the meat industry was a solid part of the New Zealand economy, employing 25,000 people and earning $9.2 billion in exports annually.
“The EU has been vocal about its ambition for a broad and world-class trade agreement,” she said.
“As a long-standing trading partner with shared values and commitments to high standards, we will be extremely disappointed if the quality of the market access outcome doesn’t reflect this.”
New Zealand’s current beef market access to the EU is severely constrained by a tariff rate quota (TRQ) of 846 tonnes with an in-quota tariff of 20%.
Exports outside of this quota are subject to a complex regime of payments which collectively amount to a 50% tariff.
Karapeeva said the small quantity made it hard for exporters to form proper trade relationships with customers.
“We urge the New Zealand Government to show leadership and reject any poor quality agricultural access offer.”