The mandate of food exporters on vaccines put on ice
The introduction of a vaccine mandate for food exporters is on hold for now, with the industry instead being encouraged to use a new assessment tool to be released next month.
The government had considered whether a vaccine mandate should be used to help exporters maintain market access for New Zealand products, finding that trade was vital to the country’s economic recovery.
The Ministry of Primary Industries and the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment have engaged in discussions with the sector in recent weeks to help inform this work. MBIE also sought independent legal advice.
A spokesperson for MPI said the industry has indicated that it is largely in favor of a mandate, and that some want to retain flexibility, such as a membership process.
But the spokesperson said it had been determined that a warrant was not needed at this point. Part of the rationale for the decision was that no market exported by New Zealand currently had requirements in place, which meant the product had to come from a facility where staff were vaccinated, they said. declared.
“The Covid-19 (Vaccinations) Response Bill offers the possibility of creating a prescription to impose vaccinations in order to maintain market access. At this point, it is not proposed to move forward with a prescription because there are tools that can help companies determine whether or not they need workers vaccinated, ”they said.
The government said on Tuesday it would launch a new tool to help employers determine which members of their staff need to be vaccinated.
The tool is still being refined but is likely to assess four factors – the environment an employee works in, whether they are working near other people, whether it is for long periods of time, and s ‘it provides services to people vulnerable to Covid-19.
Meat Industry Association chief executive Sirma Karapeeva said a vaccine mandate for the sector would have been preferable because it was a clearer approach.
“We are certainly looking for more clarity from MBIE and WorkSafe, on this risk assessment tool and its application,” she said.
“Until we have clarity, it’s really hard to take a firm position on whether this is a useful tool or not.”
Karapeeva said Covid-19 has spread extremely quickly in meat processing factories abroad and having staff vaccinated helps reduce that risk.
“I think a mandate would have made things a lot easier, a lot cleaner. And it would just have made it easier for businesses in a simpler way.”
Nervousness over access to China.
The Meat Processors Alliance has said that as Covid-19 spreads across New Zealand, the potential risk of losing market access has become a growing concern.
While the New Zealand Food Safety and Science Research Center has said there is no evidence of food transmission of Covid-19, China has signaled it may suspend access to goods from the exporter if there was a Covid-19 outbreak at a food production site in New Zealand.
Alliance President Murray Taggart said if a Covid-19 outbreak were to occur at one of its factories, he should notify Chinese authorities, which could potentially cause China to suspend the product of ‘a registered export site.
“Uncertainty, there is no one who knows exactly how long you lose the list and what the rules forget to re-register again.”
“This is an area of real nervousness for us, and so whatever we can do to alleviate that, we are looking at it very closely.”
Taggart said the company was being very careful to reduce the risk posed by Covid and that protocols, including temperature tests, were in place at factories.