May 22, 2020
New Zealand government buys 2,000 local pigs weekly
With thousands of pigs in New Zealand unable to be transported to the local market, the government has agreed to buy some of the surplus pork at cost, up to a maximum of 2,000 pigs or 112 tonnes per week, reported Stuff.
Independent butchers were not allowed to open to the public while the country was at COVID-19 alert levels 3 and 4, resulting in a surplus of up to 5,000 pigs on New Zealand farms every week and a looming animal welfare issue.
The meat will then be delivered to food banks by national food rescue network KiwiHarvest.
The scheme is part of a Budget allocation of US$14.9 million aimed at redirecting food that would otherwise go to waste.
NZ Pork chief executive David Baines said the initiative was win-win, providing food to people in need and moving surplus pork off-farm.
"It will also deliver much-needed cash to pork wholesalers who are under severe cash-flow and profitability pressure."
With butchers also able to reopen fully at alert level 2, the industry was confident a severe animal welfare issue could be averted, he said.
Pork wholesalers will have a contract with MPI and be paid a flat price per kilogramme for the meat.
It will then be sent to KiwiHarvest for processing into vacuum-packed cuts suitable for handling by food banks, and delivered to communities in need.
"We've seen a sharp and sustained increase in demand for our services since the lockdown began at the end of March, as levels of financial hardship have continued to rise," she said.
The food bank programme is expected to take around 40% of the projected surplus, about 16% of normal weekly production levels.
But Kiwis are still being encouraged to choose New Zealand-produced pork to help ease the burden on farmers and animals.
Because commercial farms typically supplied pigs to market on a weekly basis, they did not have spare holding capacity for the surplus pigs, Baines said.
The average size of pigs at slaughter was 70 kilogrammes but they could continue to put on five kilogrammes a week while they remained on-farm. Overcrowding of pigs in pens constituted a significant welfare issue under the animal welfare code, he said.
Approximately 62% of all pork consumed in New Zealand is imported from as far afield as China, Poland, Estonia, Denmark and Spain.