Halal-certified red meat exports increased 13% during the 2020-21 season with most products going to non-Muslim markets, according to an analysis by the Meat Industry Association (MIA).
The Meat Industry Association (MIA) chief executive Sirma Karapeeva says currently, companies can make Covid-19 vaccination a health and safety requirement at plants.
However, this is a difficult and complex process and required companies to do an assessment of the different risks of vaccinated versus unvaccinated people.
"It is critical that all workers are vaccinated to provide a shield against Covid-19, especially for meat processing where workers are working close together for long shifts. We applaud the Government for taking this step," she told Rural News.
Karapeeva says any sort of additional tools that meat companies can use to protect their workers are worthwhile. She says international experience shows meat companies tend to be quite a high risk environment for the spread of Covid and that is why the industry has worked hard to put in place the safety protocols to keep the virus out of the workforce.
"We know that China and other countries are looking to protect their own people very robustly and we need to respect that because we are doing the same," she adds. "While the vaccination mandate is not the silver bullet, it is another layer of protection that we can use to put around our workforce."
Karapeeva notes that Maori and Pasifika people make up a significant portion of the meat industry workforce and these groups are lagging behind in getting vaccinated. She says processing plants in individual regions are doing a lot of work to facilitate the uptake of the vaccination by working with local health providers, iwi and Maori health providers to try and overcome that information gap and educate people to help them get vaccinated.
Karapeeva says MIA welcomes the Government's recognition that having a fully vaccinated workforce will support continued access to NZ's global markets and it looks forward to the details on how this will be applied.