Foodbanks to benefit from Government deal to buy surplus pork from wholesalers

Foodbanks across the country are set to receive pork from Kiwi farms that would otherwise be wasted.

The initiative will see the Government buy pork at cost from wholesalers and then deliver it to food banks across the country via the network KiwiHarvest.

The move comes after butchers were initially deemed not to be an essential service during the nationwide lockdown and forced to shut. 

Although they were later allowed to process pork for supply to retailers and to subsequently open under level 3 in a way that avoided face-to-face contact there were fears their closure would lead to an animal welfare crisis due to a lack of capacity to hold surplus pigs.

The closure of butchers resulted in a surplus of around 5000 pigs every week on farms across the country.

With the country since moving to level 2 and the new initiative to send surplus pork to foodbanks the crisis caused by that surplus has now been avoided, David Baines, chief executive of NZ Pork, said on Friday.

"Quality nutritious food will be provided to people who are in desperate need and surplus pork moved off-farm and through the supply chain.

 "It will also deliver much-needed cash to pork wholesalers who are under severe cash-flow and profitability pressure."

The Government's Budget, announced on Thursday, allocated $14.9 million over two years for initiatives like this that redirect food that would otherwise go to waste.

Baines said NZ Pork had been in discussion with the Government for the past month to try and get the programme off the ground.

"This concept is a win-win," he said.

The agreement will see the Government buy surplus pork at cost up to a maximum of 2000 pigs or 112,000kg per week. A flat price per kilogram would be paid, Baines said.

The meat will be received by KiwiHarvest and processed into vacuum-packed cuts suitable for foodbanks and then delivered to where it is most needed.

"Even at break-even levels, the initiative will be much more attractive than the $1.50/kg below-cost alternative of substituting imported pork with NZ Pork," Baines said.

"The food bank programme will take around 40 percent of the projected surplus, which equates to 16 percent of normal weekly production levels."

Deborah Manning, the founder of KiwiHarvest, said now more than ever foodbanks needed a helping hand.

"Kiwis around the country are struggling more than ever in the face of the economic impact of COVID-19," Manning said.

"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."