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Time To Get The Facts Straight About Nait

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Time To Get The Facts Straight About Nait

5 September 2008 - It's time to get the facts straight about the proposed National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) system, says Ian Corney - independent chairman of the joint industry/government initiative.

He says the primary reasons for NAIT are to improve New Zealand's ability to respond to biosecurity alerts and to provide food safety assurance to consumers.

``The faster and more effective we can respond to a biosecurity threat, the quicker we will be able to limit the spread of the disease and demonstrate to trading partners that all potentially infected animals have been contained.

``International markets are increasingly demanding traceability of meat products. Earlier this year, the European Union banned Brazilian beef imports after Brazil's animal health and traceability systems failed to meet EU requirements.''

He says that there will be strict controls on the use of NAIT information.

``As far as we're concerned, the data will used be for biosecurity and guaranteeing markets, and that's what the regulations will reflect. If the Government wants to use it for other purposes like the Emissions Trading Scheme, that's something that would need to be negotiated with industry.''

Mr Corney says he is surprised at the recent negative public comments about NAIT from Federated Farmers.

``Federated Farmers has been a member of the NAIT governance and working groups from the beginning of the project and has had involvement in all the key decisions.

``All the important documents have been tabled at project meetings, and there's been ample opportunity for constructive comment.''

He says NAIT will initially cover cattle and deer.

``We acknowledge the Feds' view that the biosecurity benefits of NAIT would be limited if there were to be an outbreak of foot and mouth or another disease that affects sheep and other species that aren't recorded on the system.

``The Government's proposed FarmsOnline system is intended to help plug the biosecurity gap by bringing together a complete register of existing rural property and stock information,'' he says.

``In addition, the NAIT system will provide the infrastructure capable of capturing improved movement and location information about other livestock in the future.

``We're not saying sheep will definitely be coming onto NAIT, only that the potential is there should industry want this.''

He says industry and the Government weighed up a number of options before arriving at a consensus position on NAIT.

``Our cost-benefit analysis, although only indicative, showed that NAIT would produce a positive return for every dollar invested. And this was based on very conservative assumptions - for example, we did not consider how NAIT would reduce the cost of re-establishing market access following a major biosecurity scare.''

He says the NAIT project team was working on more detailed cost benefit analysis work that was expected to prove the worth of the proposed system.

The cost to farmers of introducing electronic tags would be around $2 or $3 per animal, based on conservative estimates, he says.

``Many farmers could pay less than what they do to meet existing tagging requirements if a single NAIT-compliant tag were adopted for all official tagging purposes in the future, which is one of our aims.

``And it's going to be easy for farmers to comply with NAIT. The exact requirements have yet to be finalised, but it is likely that farmers will be obliged to only record the animals on NAIT when they are initially tagged (soon after birth) and when moved to another farm.

``A recent NAIT prototype indicated this requirement would take minimal effort.''

The design features, processes, and roles and responsibilities outlined in the discussion document are only a proposal, he adds:

``We have been undertaking consultation to test and fine-tune our thinking and are still very much interested in receiving feedback from farmers and industry, including Federated Farmers.''

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