Mercer Mushrooms, the company trying to import high quality compost from Europe to grow a superior grade product, has not given up on its efforts to do so in spite of a knock-back from the Ministry of Primary Industries. 

Having initially approved the importation of substrate, then put a hold on that approval after objections from industry competitors, farmers, and New Zealand First, MPI has now confirmed it will no longer be permitting animal manure products. 

Mercer has not been able to convince the government that the Dutch processing system, which uses trace amounts of animal manure, has the ability to completely destroy any harmful bacteria or organisms by heating its product. That’s in spite of the substrate being shipped around the world, including to difficult import markets such as Japan. 

Federated Farmers says sanity based on sound science has prevailed. 

However Dave Hyland, Mercer’s chief executive, says the product is not directly off the European farm. “It progresses through an intense heat period, pasteurised, blocked, plastic wrapped and containerised. Three phases are passed where viruses and diseases are eradicated in the first phase.”

The company has gone to great lengths to meet an import standard that was drafted specifically for the substrate. Hyland says the initial test on the Walkro DV product didn’t meet MPI’s requirements. But he says “a recent change to the process by the world’s leading Dutch compost supplier will ensure the requirements can be met. Once testing to verify the new process compliance is complete, this information will be delivered to MPI. We will then be requesting the hold position be lifted and the new standard released.”

Hyland says MPI had drafted an Import Health Standard based on sound science with input from world leading specialists that they knew would ensure Biosecurity was paramount. “Mercer has worked closely with MPI ensuring processes in Europe and post clearance back in New Zealand. A state of the art facility here further ensured there would be no risk with imported compost.

“Anyone who wants to import anything off a farm into NZ has a hell of a process to go through .. we have been through that process… but we’re battling a public perception that any such imports will bring the ruination of our agriculture industry down upon us, which obviously isn’t true,” he says. 

Federated Farmers’ biosecurity spokesperson Guy Wigley says however MPI has made the right decision. “We are glad the Government has taken this step.” he says. “Federated Farmers made a strong submission earlier in the year against these imports.

“The initial measures outlined in the proposed import health standard were simply not robust enough or science based in our opinion, and this presented a biosecurity risk.

“We don’t allow anyone from overseas to bring unauthorised raw meat into the country as the risks are just too great, and this particular import request fits that category of not meeting our current stringent import health standards,” he said.

You can read the background to Mercer’s struggles with MPI in a previous Newsroom story here.

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