Chinese ban on casings mystery
‘When we eat a hangi somewhere else, it reminds us of home.’ John Tipene
New Zealand’s $160 million sheep intestine trade with China is in a mystery temporary halt as officials work through access issues.
The intestines – familiarly known in the trade as ‘‘green runners’’ but in export parlance as casings – are used to make sausages and a variety of other products. The total global value of the trade to New Zealand is $300m.
A New Zealand meat industry delegation which recently returned from China was briefed on the issue. The visit in mid-June marked the first time the meat industry had showed a united front and was a sign of China’s growing importance to the red meat trade.
Total red meat industry exports to China are worth almost $1.3 billion. China accounts for 28 per cent of the value of all sheepmeat exports, compared with the nextmost important, the United Kingdom, at 21 per cent.
The ban on casings mystifies the industry, because Australia has open access. Some have assumed it was a food safety issue.
Silver Fern Farms board chairman Rob Hewett said his company had added 40 fulltime workers to its Balclutha plant, where the casings were cleaned and graded.
Until the wrangle is sorted, the casings are being diverted to other markets, but the prices received are lower than from China.
Hewett said the trip was an eyeopener. ‘‘I saw more Maseratis and Ferraris in a few days in Beijing as I’ve seen in 12 years in New Zealand,’’ he said.
Silver Fern sells everything from carcasses to casings to packaged steaks. It has recently entered into an agreement with New Zealand Focus in Shanghai to sell online.
The Chinese were moving away from chicken and pork in favour of red meat, he said. Sheep meat was popular in northern China, and beef everywhere.
‘‘We are in a good spot with our free trade agreement with China, our food safety record and clean image.