A loophole in the Australian bio-security risk plan is sending Australian pig producers to the wall.
The loophole, which is not against the law but considered against the spirit of law, allows New Zealand food processing companies to import unprocessed food products (fresh pork and vegetables) from major exporting countries (US, Canada, EU, China) and then re-export them into Australia in a precooked form.
The process is costing Aussie pig producers their livelihood, according to Stanhope pig producer and chair of the VFF Pig Group, John Bourke who runs a 500 sow farrow-to-finishing operation.
“At the moment producers are grinning and bearing rates lower than the cost of production, and no-one seems to care or even know” he told Stock & Land.
“Farm gate prices have fallen by $1 a kilogram from highs of $3.80/kg at Christmas which is a lot to lose” he said.
The practice has swamped domestic demand for Australian pork bellies and ribs, a market the local industry had developed over recent years. And with the current high lamb and beef prices, Mr Bourke says the lower pork prices have not been passed on at retail to alert consumers of its cheaper value.
This is a point not lost on Eddie Camelli, a 60-year veteran of trading pigs domestically.
He said prices over the past six week rates have tumbled to $3/kg or less, with no light at the end of the tunnel.
It’s a combination of a number of issues Mr Camelli said “Imports certainly are a major problem but a buildup in domestic supplies with only limited exports has also caused local over-production.” “Everything is full up and nothing is moving,” he said. “Piggeries are full, chillers are full and freezers are full and nothing has changed at retail – no advertising, no discounting to promote the value of pork.”
“The industry as a whole should have seen this coming. The problem has been building for some time – the higher imports, the over production and with shorter working weeks over the Easter and ANZAC period will have less days to sell and clear the backlog, he warned.
“Low feed prices are their only saving grace. It could be worse as prices are bordering on the cost of production which could see family operations out of business”.
In a submission to Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade last July, Australian Pork Limited stated that 167,000 tonnes of pig meats were imported annually representing 45 per cent of all pigmeats consumed nationally.
These are supposedly meant to be imported in a processed form for bio-security reasons. But now other precooked products for reheating are being imported it has serious eroded the fresh meat market.
The problem was raised with the Federal Agriculture Minister who said the practice was not illegal while Trade Minister suggests complaints should be registered with relevant authorities.
John Bourke said nobody cares pig farmers are going to the wall. “If it were dairy, beef or lamb there would be immediate action, pig farmers are being treated as second class and dispensable.”