New Zealand’s food and biosecurity regulatory body has proposed new fees to provide continuing food-safety and border services for importers and exporters, and the country’s growing wine industry is not happy about it. “Biosecurity and food safety are critical to the operation and viability of New Zealand’s primary industries,” said Dan Bolger, deputy director-general for the country’s Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). The ministry is taking comment on the proposals until Feb. 20. “Without these systems, New Zealand’s 38.3-billion-NZ-dollar (29.84 billion U.S. dollars) primary sector exports would never get past importing countries’ borders and New Zealand’s primary industries would be exposed to a much greater risk of potentially devastating pests and diseases,” Bolger said. The ministry’s food-safety service fees would go up by 12 percent under the proposal, which is the first review of food-safety fees in New Zealand since 2008. The current review was in response to higher demand for the ministry’s services, Bolger noted. One MPI proposal which has drawn particular fire from New Zealand’s wine industry would be to end government rebates to cover the cost of testing samples of wine destined for export. Currently, New Zealand wine companies pay laboratories at the time of testing, and MPI rebates wine businesses for the full cost, up to a limit of $160 per sample.
Steve Green, chair of Winegrowers New Zealand, said his industry would be unfairly hit if it has to pay $2.9 million more per year in NZ dollars in addition to the $200 million in NZ dollars it currently pays to cover the cost of being regulated by MPI. “We are different from the other primary sectors that are being approached because we pay excise, those excise go directly into the Government’s coffers. That is a huge tax that we pay that no one else is paying,” Green said. New Zealand’s wine industry is exporting more products every year and grew by more than 13 percent annually between 2005 and 2014.