and meat, too

August 2nd, 2013

I was first told some months ago to look into New Zealand meat exports to China as well as just dairy. And I have to admit that everytime I see a restaurant listing New Zealand lamb on its menu I do wonder, “Really?” Even more so when they’re advertising it. But it’s been one of those years when it seems as soon as I think I’ve got time and space, something more urgent comes up and drags me off elsewhere, and in any case, I’m not sure where to start looking.

But this Skykiwi post to Weibo grabbed my attention, especially with its


[Don’t understand China well enough]

So I followed the link to the fuller article on Skykiwi, headlined:

肉类风波折射对中国了解不足 MPI将加强人手培训

Meat tempest reflects lack of understanding of China. MPI to strengthen staff training

Trouble is, it references a TVNZ report, and both the Weibo post and the article include what would seem to be a screen grab of a graphic from a One News report, but for some reason I can’t persuade the TVNZ website to open. But this short APNZ piece at the Herald would seem to be relevant.

It’s about an MPI report into how two shipments of New Zealand meat were held up at port in China over problems with the paperwork. That One News graphic is interesting, listing:

  • Failure to give adequate notice
  • Own officials were confused
  • Too “optimistic” problem could be solved
  • Failed to advise bosses and Ministers

Now I’m trying and failing to find an article I’m sure I read this morning, or perhaps yesterday, reporting Labour politicians getting stuck into Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy over this issue. I recall it having some interesting statistics on the number of redundancies at the MPI this year and how many vacancies MPI still has. If we go back to that APNZ piece linked above, we can see what I’m looking for here:

The Labour Party is calling on the Government to boost resources at the industry after a review that found systematic failings left millions of dollars worth of New Zealand beef and lamb sitting on Chinese docks for weeks.

Labour’s primary industries spokesman Damien O’Connor said there had been 90 redundancies at the ministry since January last year and there are 48 vacancies in the compliance area.

Except I’m sure I read an article going into more detail on this.

Anyway, it would seem there’s a lot of work to be done sorting out MPI to give our exporters a decent shot of actually getting their products into China.

And then there’s this:

Gallacher承认,MPI对中国的认识有所不足。过去5年,新西兰对华贸易额大幅增加。对新西兰而言,中国市场的规模和重要性都在增加。“但这也是 一个我们亟需了解的市场。”Gallacher说,这次检讨发现,MPI需要进一步加强与中方合作。同时,也需要改善内部资源、文化、系统和流程,避免类 似的问题再次发生。

It would be nice to see how TVNZ reported it in English, but oh well, here goes:

Gallacher acknowledged MPI didn’t know China well enough. In the past 5 years New Zealand’s trade with China had increased considerably. For New Zealand, both the scale and importance of the China market were growing. “But this is a market we urgently need to understand.” Gallacher said this inquiry showed MPI needs to further strengthen its cooperation with China. It also needs to improve its internal resources, culture, systems and processes to avoid similar problems occuring again.

And that is a refreshing bit of honesty. Now let’s just hope somebody manages to persuade the government that one can cut budgets too far, that the bureaucracy needs resources in order to function properly, and that much as we may all love to loathe bureaucrats and bureaucracy, when properly resourced, the bureaucracy makes a very real, very valuable contribution to the economy. This issue of New Zealand meat exports to China would seem to be a very good example of how.


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