MPI accepts blame for China meat muddle

The Ministry of Primary Industries has accepted the blame for the muddle which left New Zealand meat stuck on the wharves in China.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) will develop an MPI China strategy, and invest in more staff and more training to strengthen relationships between MPI and key Chinese regulators, acting Director-General Scott Gallacher said today.

His comments follow the release of a review of MPI’s handling of changes to export certification to China, which left significant quantities of New Zealand meat delayed at the Chinese border.

“The review clearly shows MPI made mistakes when changing the templates used for certifying meat exports to China. These mistakes resulted in delayed acceptance of these exports,” Mr Gallacher said.

“The mistakes were compounded by a failure to appropriately escalate an emerging issue internally, or to Ministers, once delays to exports began. The review identifies a series of learnings for MPI, which we are immediately acting on.”

Mr Gallacher said it was clear MPI needed to lift its game with China.

“Trade with China has tripled in the past five years.  It is a market growing in size and importance to New Zealand. It is also a market we are still getting to know.  The review makes it clear we need an improved approach to how MPI works with China, and we are committed to achieving that.

“We are also focussed on improving our internal resourcing, culture, systems and processes to prevent mistakes like those identified by the review recurring in future, and when things do go wrong, to ensure the smooth flow of information to the right levels, and integrated ‘whole of organisation’ and ‘whole of government’ responses to them.”

Following the review, MPI is implementing 25 management actions, which will be completed by July 2014. These include:

  • Developing an MPI China strategy, investing in more staff and more training to strengthen relationships and understanding between MPI and key Chinese regulators
  • Renewing efforts to double the resourcing for MPI’s market access team in Wellington from 8 to 16
  • Developing a new issues management system in partnership with the meat industry
  • Improving processes for the identification and management of risks to trade issues, and the escalation of emerging risks internally and to Ministers.

“MPI handles more than 120,000 export certificates each year to more than 100 countries. We are absolutely determined not to make the same mistakes twice. Our trade system is too important,” Mr Gallacher said.

The delays were serious. Around $100m worth of meat was stuck at the Chinese border as a result of MPI’s mistakes.

The Ministry accepts it was to blame but it’s learned from it’s mistakes and doing everything to ensure it will get it right in future.

The full report is here.

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