More than 45% of NZ’s red meat exports – worth $3 billion – are ‘halal certified’, destined mainly for the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
‘Halal certified’ requires that only a Muslim man can slaughter the animal and the entire processing must involve utensils, equipment and machinery cleansed according to Islamic law. Fully 90% of NZ meat is slaughtered by the halal method.
Certification means these meat products can be consumed by Muslims under Islamic law.
Last October we reported that NZ meat processors faced the loss of about one-third of their roughly 250 halal processing workers, many of these specialist migrants. Current ‘stand down’ rules would require about a third of these to leave the country this year.
At the time, Meat Industry Assn’s chief executive Sirma Karapeeva told BayBuzz that amongst the five MIA member meat plants in the region, “the halal resource for those plants is 25 halal slaughterers. Of the 25, 16 are from overseas and will be impacted by the visa requirements.”
She added, “We are continuing to work with officials to find a permanent solution to this issue. We have been given a small reprieve until June 2021 to help manage the immediate pressure and I remain hopeful that this will allow sufficient time for officials to develop and implement an enduring solution.”
It appears the worker problem has not been resolved. A July 13 front-page headline in Rural News cried “Crisis coming!” with halal meat workers’ visas expiring.
The religious component of halal processing makes this a unique labour situation. “Ultimately, there is a religious component in this that we can’t do anything about,” notes MIA’s Karapeeva. “We are not going to be setting up a conversion centre to convert good Kiwi blokes into Muslim slaughtermen.”
Asked for a local perspective, Silver Fern Farms replied to BayBuzz: “The meat industry, through the MIA, are in discussions with MBIE regarding the visa situation with halal workers. With the borders closed, there is a limited pool of halal workers available, however visa extensions are in place, renewals of visas can be applied for, and discussions around creating some certainty for the halal workers to remain in NZ longer term are positive and progressing. Halal processing is critical to the industry so all parties are working hard to resolve the issues.”
How might this affect Hawke’s Bay”
Silver Fern Farms’ Takapau processing facility employs 700 staff in peak season. AFFCO’s Wairoa plant employs another 650.
Both plants are 100% halal.
Doesn’t sound good from a regional economic perspective.
And if exporting live cows on ships bothers you, halal is a process you don’t want to know about.