DENVER – Fresh and frozen pork imports from the United States will soon be accepted by New Zealand's Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, according to the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Currently, any US pork merchandised in New Zealand must be cooked before sale. New Zealand’s policy change does not become official until the US Department of Agriculture develops export certification measures.

Although New Zealand is a small market for US pork, it is nonetheless growing. US pork exports to New Zealand in 2010 totaled 15.6 million lbs. valued at $19.3 million. US pork exports have started off strong in 2011, increasing 55 percent in volume and 85 percent in value through February.

According to the new policy, New Zealand will allow US pork to be sold in fresh or frozen form in retail-ready packages of 3 kg. or less. Joel Haggard, USMEF senior vice president for the Asia Pacific region, said he hopes a similar change will occur at some point in Australia, which despite similar restrictions was nearly a $150 million market for US pork last year.

“New Zealand completed is risk assessments and determined that pig meat from the US can now enter New Zealand without a cooking step, which for us is a victory because in that market, as well as Australia, any pork meat had to be cooked before being sold and marketed,” Haggard said. “With this new risk assessment, any fresh or frozen pig meat can be sold as fresh or frozen as long as its packed in 3 kilogram or below retail ready-packages.

“Retail brands should give us a little bit of latitude to experiment with some addition types of marketing approaches,” he added. “USMEF maintains a network of contacts in New Zealand among the importers. Obviously, New Zealand is a small market, but it’s tending to increase its imports in recent years. In any event, a small victory but we’re always very happy to see science trump politics. We expect to see some additional trade from this.”

Australia has similar restrictions in place and Haggard hopes to see a similar policy change in Australia in the future. “We hope this will be observed by Biosecurity New Zealand’s colleagues in Australia and that perhaps access for US pork along the lines of what New Zealand has offered could be forthcoming in Australia in the near future,” he concluded.