2009-01-07

Media Release - Value of compulsory national ID scheme questioned

7 January 2009

Value of compulsory national ID scheme questioned

“If the proposed compulsory national ID system for livestock isn’t about food assurance and boosting farmer returns, then why on earth is the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry pouring millions of dollars into it?," asked Lachlan McKenzie, Federated Farmers board spokesperson.

Federated Farmers is asking this question after a major meat export company said the Federation was confused about food safety and traceability. This company said it wished to see New Zealand copy Australia’s visual tag requirement for sheep, introduced into Australia on 1 January 2009. A mandatory visual tag requirement was introduced after Australia failed a periodic European Union audit. The Federation also expressed concern that this supposed model, the Australian National Livestock Identification System (NLIS), is prone to data error. According to the Australian Beef Association, between 20-30 percent of the data on the NLIS system is incorrect.

“Some of the claims about the proposed compulsory animal ID scheme, called National Animal Identification and Tracing, or NAIT, are just unreal. The fundamental issue for farmers is this, if it doesn’t add to food assurance over and above our current world-class New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) and doesn’t generate more income for farmers and this country, then what’s the point?,” Mr McKenzie asked.

“Brazilian beef got kicked out of the EU because Brazil has endemic foot and mouth. Brazil lacks the same controls and assurances that New Zealand’s Animal Health Board (AHB) and NZFSA provide. These are controls and assurances the EU and our other trading partners are happy with and accept. We are currently recognised as the best in the world and NAIT will add nothing to vital food assurance.

“NAIT advocates claim it will make New Zealand food exports a premium product living up to our ‘clean and green’ image. If that’s true, then why hasn’t one of the major meat processing companies offered farmers a substantial price differential to adopt a voluntary animal ID system?

“NAIT advocates further claim it will aid ‘rapid’ market re-entry if we ever suffered a biosecurity incursion. I have a two word answer to that - South Korea.

“While it took the Americans five long years to get their beef back into South Korea last year, causing mass riots in the process, they have, within a few short months, shot back to the number two slot for imported beef in that market.

“The big loser in the Korean market is Australia, which has compulsory animal ID but has never suffered from BSE. Despite this, they are rapidly losing a large chunk of this market to the Americans who have suffered BSE and operate a voluntary animal ID system.

“While New Zealand’s share of the Korean market is down slightly since the Americans re-entered, our lack of compulsory animal ID is not an issue. What sets us apart is the high NZFSA and AHB standards accepted by the Koreans, the Europeans and our other trading partners.

“This tells Federated Farmers that a voluntary animal ID scheme aimed at proving the concept, systems and economic value to farmers, is the only logical way forward. It also requires the meat processors to put up or shut up on the value return they claim animal ID would bring farmers,” Mr McKenzie concluded.

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