The pork sector is calling on the new government to demonstrate its commitment to animal welfare as high volumes of imported pork flood into New Zealand.
An analysis of pork imports conducted by NZ Pork reveals more than 44,000 tonnes of overseas pork from 22 countries has been imported into NZ during 2023, most of it from nations that allow pig farming practices that are banned in NZ.
The highest volume of imported pork through the period January to October was from the United States with 7336t, a 128% increase compared to the same period in 2022 at 3216t.
Canada was the next highest, at 6238t – up from 3824t – while Australia, at 3551t and the Netherlands, 3418t, also increased.
Imports from Spain were significantly down at 6047t compared to 9685t as were imports from Germany at 2,962t, down from 10,042t at the same time last year.
Finland, at 2775t; Poland, 2406t; Denmark, 2360t; and Sweden, 1623t, were all down.
Kleiss said the significant decline in pork volumes supplied from large European producers comes with new and proposed legislation around farming making it harder to farm pigs.
“These pork imports have been replaced by product from the US and Canada, where they are less stringent on environmental and welfare standards,” NZ Pork chief executive Brent Kleiss said.
While two-thirds of pork consumed in NZ is imported, there is no requirement for the products to meet NZ’s rigorous pig welfare standards.
“Although the European Union is currently reviewing animal welfare legislation, most EU members and other countries exporting pork to NZ have lower standards of pig care and less rigorous enforcement regimes than we do,” he said.
“For example, gestation stalls are banned here but in Canada and most European countries sows can be confined in gestation stalls for the first four weeks of pregnancy and in the US they can be confined for their entire pregnancy.
“Our farmers do not castrate piglets, but they are routinely castrated in Europe, the US and Canada – and in Spain, Poland and the US that is done without pain relief.”
In NZ sows are housed in farrowing systems only when it is time for them to give birth and care for their piglets, with a maximum of five days pre-farrowing and 28 days after.
Most EU countries and the US have no limit on how long a sow can be confined in a farrowing system, either before or after giving birth. Canada allows up to six weeks.
NZ Pork said that NZ pig farmers deserve a level playing field.
“The new government should demonstrate its commitment to animal welfare, the environment and local farming by subjecting imported pork to the same stringent standards that are applied to Kiwi farmers.”
The pork sector would also like to see government departments backing local farmers through their food procurement.
Government agencies that regularly provide food, such as the Department of Corrections, Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Education, should be required to source that food locally whenever possible.
“We’ve been told by previous ministers that customers will pay more for pork, ham and bacon produced to more stringent standards, but the government’s own departments and ministries have been choosing pork from countries with lower standards.
“We’re hopeful the new government will see this corrected.”
Consumers repeatedly tell NZ Pork they are confused and frustrated by current food labelling regulations, Kleiss said.
“We need regulatory change to ensure pork sellers stop using prominent NZ branding on imported products, whilst only disclosing that the product was made of imported pork in the small print.”
To be sure they are getting an excellent quality product from high health pigs born and raised in NZ to stringent welfare standards, Kiwi shoppers are urged to ask questions.
“Kiwi shoppers can back Kiwi farmers by looking out for the 100% NZ Pork label and asking their retailer where it’s from, if they’re not sure.”