The meat processing and exporting industry is calling on the government to prioritise its workforce for Covid-19 vaccinations.
Meat Industry Association (MIA) chief executive Sirma Karapeeva told Rural News that all the anticipated disruption at the border between the UK and EU has not been as severe as predicted in terms of NZ meat exports. She says there have been no reports from companies saying they've had any problems when the change took effect.
However, Karapeeva says some of the meat destined for the UK and Europe was for the Christmas trade and that would have cleared customs in December under the previous regime.
"The other thing is that Brexit has been going for such a long time and we have been working very hard behind the scenes to do a whole lot of contingency planning," she says.
"We've worked with the Meat Board to ensure that our quota would be able to be managed from January 1 in the most seamless way possible to make sure that NZ exporters are not facing any issues."
Karapeeva added that her organisation has also worked with the Ministry for Primary Industries to make sure that the export certificates that were needed to use for the UK were ready in time.
"All that was agreed some time ago and sitting on the shelf and ready to go January 1," she says.
While the issue of coping with changes on January 1 seems to have gone smoothly, the MIA says the really big problem with Brexit remains unresolved.
Karapeeva says this is the unilateral splitting of the beef and sheep meat quotas between the EU and UK as part of their Brexit deal.
NZ's beef quota of 1300 tonnes has been split so that 40% will go to the UK and 60% to the EU.
The 228,000 sheepmeat quota has been split 50/50. Both quotas were signed off in 1995, as part of a deal within the framework of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). NZ maintains this is a binding agreement which states that NZ should not be disadvantaged if there were any changes to such a deal.
Karapeeva says protests by the NZ meat industry and our government over a number of years have been ignored by both the EU and the UK.
"The EU and UK have simply not wanted to engage to look for some kind of mechnaisms or way to address our real concerns," she told Rural News.
NZ officials at the WTO headquarters in Geneva have been working hard to get the EU and UK to the negotiating table, but Karapeeva says they remain intransigent and won't budge from their position.
She says, in theory there is the option of lodging an appeal to the WTO.
However, Karapeeva concedes that the chances of this succeeding are remote because the WTO dispute system is effectively defunct.
She says the preferred option is to get the parties around the table to come to a better and fairer deal but says this would require a mind-set change on the part of both the EU and the UK.