EU, New Zealand agree food safety deal

EU - New Zealand and European Union negotiators have agreed a proposal that would have significant economic benefits should New Zealand ever have a serious animal health disease such as Foot and Mouth (FMD).
calendar icon 10 January 2007
clock icon 4 minute read

“Despite our geographical isolation New Zealand always has to be on guard against the possibility that a serious and costly animal health disease, such as FMD, could happen here,” says New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) Executive Director Andrew McKenzie.

“This agreement is intended as an insurance policy, to provide New Zealand with the ability to continue trading in animal products and minimise the economic fallout.”

The proposal was agreed at a recent Joint Management Committee Meeting, co-chaired by Dr McKenzie under the NZ/EU Sanitary (Veterinary) Agreement which covers all trade in animal products between New Zealand and the 25 member nations of the EU. The proposal is now awaiting ratification with the EU Commission.

It was the culmination of nearly two years of talks between the EU and officials from NZFSA, Biosecurity New Zealand (BNZ) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT).

The agreement establishes and pre-agrees the conditions that would be applied to New Zealand exports such as dairy and meat products in the event of a serious animal disease and would allow trade to continue.

Those conditions, in general terms, provide for a government-to-government assurance that the animal products being exported have undergone certain treatments (such as heat treatments in the case of dairy products) or have been kept separate from other (possibly affected) products during stages of production, storage and transport.

The new conditions would become effective from the moment official notification of a serious animal disease outbreak was given.

Up until now, if a serious animal disease was discovered on a farm in New Zealand, planned exports of all animal product – whether in transit, storage or production at the time of discovery – would automatically stop for an indeterminate time.

Barry O’Neil, Assistant Director-General of BNZ says: “This arrangement is mutually beneficial to New Zealand and the EU and represents a major step forward in mitigating the trade risks associated with major exotic animal health diseases.”

Conservative economic estimates show the cumulative loss to the country’s Gross Domestic Product as a result of FMD being discovered here could be as much as $6 billion after one year, rising to $10 billion after two years. Thousands of jobs could be lost and business confidence in the country could plummet.

The 2001 FMD outbreak in Britain saw five million sheep, 764,000 cattle and 435,000 pigs and goats slaughtered in a nationwide operation that cost the British government around $6 billion in compensation to farmers. The cost to the country’s tourism in the year following the outbreak was estimated to be around $15 billion.

Dr McKenzie says: “We are really pleased with the results of this work. It is a significant milestone in international trade and trade between the EU and New Zealand. The agreement provides an international model for managing in a proportionate and scientific way what could be serious problems affecting our agriculture trade. We must now put efforts into extending similar agreements with New Zealand’s other trading partners.”

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