MPI’s director-general, Ray Smith, wants his staff to engage more with the rural sector.
A group of sheep breeders are calling on MPI to reverse the 2016 relaxation of the rules on importation of sheep and goat germplasm.
MPI says it has also tried to persuade Australian authorities that their concerns over NZ’s ovine genetics exports are unfounded.
In a statement, MPI says it is confident of the biosecurity measures in place.
“MPI takes biosecurity extremely seriously and our Import Health Standards for the importation of sheep and goat semen and embryos are based on, or exceed, top international standards.”
MPI says it had listened to the concerns of the farming sector regarding pelletised sheep semen.
“As a result, we’re planning additional inspections of consignments to ensure that certification, documentation and packaging meet the Import Health Standard (IHS).”
MPI says the new IHS had been in response to a long-standing industry request for an improvement in sheep and goat genetics in NZ, for both milking and meat purposes. The ministry claims this was widely consulted on and developed with input from industry.
“In addition, MPI did rigorous risk analysis and found the risks of introduction of diseases via germplasm could be appropriately managed. The only country that disagreed was Australia, who subsequently imposed import restrictions on ovine germplasm from New Zealand,” it says.
“This was due to perceptions of the risk of spreading scrapie. We have presented Australia with scientific evidence to reduce their concerns, however the restrictions remain in place.”
MPI denies increased risk from pelletised semen. It says pellets had been imported and used in NZ for decades, and a 2013 risk assessment for pellets concluded the risk was “appropriately managed” by the requirements of the IHS.
The IHS can only be used if the country of export has been approved by MPI in a rigorous process, including assessing their systems and their animal disease status. MPI noted that none of the four countries now exporting ovine germplasm to NZ has foot and mouth disease.