As part of a Budget allocation of $14.9 million aimed at redirecting food from the primary sector that would otherwise be wasted the Ministry for Primary Industries will pay for surplus pork resulting from covid-19 restrictions and have it delivered to food banks via KiwiHarvest, a food rescue network.
The redirection funding will also pay for an extra 100,000 boxes of fruit and vegetables to be distributed to children via schools and their communities over the next six weeks.
The excess pork is a direct result of the covid-19 lockdown. The shutdown of independent butchers as non-essential businesses during alert levels four and three combined with restaurant closures effectively shut about 40% of the market for New Zealand pork.
With about 12,500 pigs produced for the local market a week that left about 5000 pigs surplus to requirements and a potential animal welfare issue, NZ Pork chief executive David Baines said.
MPI has signed supply contracts with large wholesalers including Freshpork, Wilson Hellaby, Five Star Pork, Patoa Farms and Porkcorp to buy as many as 2000 pigs a week for the next six weeks – almost 700,000kg of pork.
Baines said the food bank programme will take about 40% of the projected surplus or about 16% of normal weekly production.
NZ pork production, however, is considered niche by global standards with about 62% of pork eaten by Kiwis imported. About 85% of that is further processed into bacon and other meat goods.
The wholesalers will arrange for the MPI pork to be processed into vacuum-packed cuts suitable for food bank handling, mainly 800g-1kg roasts, some pork sausages and even some pickled pork but in a small size for family food parcels.
Baines said it had taken about a month to resolve the pig crisis during which, as a stopgap, manufacturers had agreed to take extra local pork rather than the cheaper, imported, frozen product.
That meant the local industry had to absorb a drop in returns of about $1.50/kg.
The new deal will see wholesalers and producers at least break even, which at the farm gate is between $3.80/kg and $3.90/kg depending on size and grading.
Wholesalers will bill MPI and pay their farmers as usual.
Baines said the dealis a win-win, delivering cash to struggling producers and supplying protein to food banks where demand is about 10 times pre-covid levels.
KiwiHarvest founder Deborah Manning said the initiative could not have come at a better time.
“We’ve seen a sharp and sustained increase in demand for our services since the lockdown began at the end of March as levels of financial hardship have continued to rise.” – BusinessDesk