A routine re-registration of processing plants has opened the door to a long-awaited expansion in market access for high-value meat exports to China.
If the new access can be secured it would represent the biggest advance for meat exporters in their single largest market since China rubber-stamped 10 processing plants for chilled meat exports six years ago.
More were to have been added by the Chinese but nothing eventuated and chilled exports have been slow to get off the ground.
Last year a mere 1% of sheepmeat sales to China were chilled, although chilled beef exports were higher.
Market access for high-value byproducts such as tripe and casings, which last year fetched $14 per kg in China compared to the global average of $4 per kg, also continue to be restricted for many plants.
“The opening premise of the chilled trial was that China would expand access in time but they haven’t,” ANZCO general manager of sales Rick Walker said.
“There is no good reason for them not to [grant new access] but it has been a low priority for them.”
However, an overhaul of systems used by the General Administration of Customs for the People’s Republic of China (GACC) currently underway could open the door once again.
Every one of the more than 60 processing plants currently registered for exports to China must re-apply as the GACC works its way through a shift from a paper-based to an electronic certification system.
As part of that process exporters have been able to apply for certification of products they are restricted from selling to China in addition to re-applying for those they already had access for.
“One of our plants is not registered for tripe for China – we are going to be putting down tripe,” Walker said.
“Likewise if you are not approved for chilled you are allowed to put down chilled.
“It does not mean that you are going to get access but it does mean that China will consider all of those registrations and in theory be in a position to approve all of those products.”
Farmers Weekly understands plants completely sidelined from selling to China will also have an opportunity apply for registration.
Among these is understood to be Silver Fern Farms’ (SFF) Te Aroha plant, which never regained registration following significant fire damage in 2010.
Greenleas Premier Meats chief executive Tony Egan is hopeful the Hamilton-based beef exporter will add to its existing one plant registered for chilled exports to China, but he said more access is not guaranteed.
“We see it as an important opportunity but it is always an uncertain pathway [with China] and you have just got to do the best you can.
“China is an important market for us all and the more access we can secure the better.
“That is particularly so in the context of the global environment where other countries are gaining access as well.”
Egan said Prime Minister Chris Hipkins’ meetings with China’s leadership in Beijing last week are seen as an important step in getting top-level support for more access.
The chief executive of SFF, Simon Limmer, and Alliance Group’s head of marketing, Shane Kingston, were also on the PM’s plane.
Three more delegations of industry players and officials from the Ministry for Primary Industries are understood to be due to visit China before the end of the year.
Egan said China is “very relationship-driven” and the increased contact augurs well for NZ’s chances of winning more access.
Walker said while he is still to be convinced such a breakthrough is imminent, ANZCO is keen to add to the two plants it currently has registered for chilled exports to China.
“There is only one direction with China and that premium end of the market is going to continue to grow
“NZ in the chilled premium space is a pimple on the backside of that market.
“There is a huge opportunity for us to do more but unfortunately we are being held back currently.”