Concern for New Zealand's meat industry amid dramatic fall in exports

When GDP falls it's bad news for businesses, but one industry in particular bearing the brunt is New Zealand's meat sector.

Meat Industry Association CEO Sirma Karapeeva said meat exports are down 11 percent this quarter from the same time last year.

"It has really been a time of a huge roller coaster," Karapeeva told Newshub Late host Janika ter Ellen.

The new GDP figures released on Thursday show New Zealand's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) fell 0.2 percent in the first quarter of 2022. 

The fall follows a 3 percent rise in the December 2021 quarter and has experts predicting we could be on the road to a recession. 

Karapeeva said labour shortages and COVID-19's disruption to production are driving the fall in meat production.

"That is largely a reflection of the challenges and the constraints in processing here in New Zealand due to labour shortages, supply chain volatility and disruption, and the fact that some of our export marketers have also been disrupted due to COVID."

There is also a big shortage of halal workers, who are needed in order for meat companies to export to a wider range of markets.

Halal is the term used for food that is considered lawful under Islamic law. Halal meat must be properly slaughtered by hand by a Muslim who says a blessing and the blood of the carcass must then be completely drained.

Karapeeva said New Zealand needs about 250 halal slaughtermen to do this, but since the pool of talent in the country is very small they have to rely mostly on migrant workers.

She is calling on the Government to help support primary industry production to help increase exports.

"Besides trying to reduce global challenges, I think the real issues are about making sure the Government policy settings are fit for purpose and they really do support primary industry production and export." 

While Karapeeva is concerned inflationary pressures will deter some people from buying meat, she said global demand is expected to remain strong.

She said the latest Ministry for Primary Industries report forecasted the global demand will continue to remain reasonably strong in the coming 12 months or so mainly because the supply of meat is constrained.