Economy, Domestic Economy

New Zealand Resumes Lamb Exports to Iran

A worker processes lamb for export to Iran at the Taylor Preston plant in Wellington.A worker processes lamb for export to Iran at the Taylor Preston plant in Wellington.

New Zealand is about to resume shipments of lamb to Iran, after a gap of two decades.

On May 22, Wellington processor Taylor Preston will ship a modest 60 tons of frozen cuts to mark the resumption of trade, New Zealand news website reported.

Taylor Preston chief executive, Simon Gatenby, said the company was looking to do more business with Iran.  

“The reason we’re doing this is to develop the trade, it’s a nice easy order to start with, it allows us to get a bit of volume into the market and allow it to be tested.”

Farmers supplying the late season lambs were being paid a premium of $6.10 per kilogram.

New Zealand’s largest meat processing company Silver Fern Farms is in talks with Iranian officials, but shipments are not likely until the new season.

The trade was in its heyday in the 1980s when there were 22 sheep for every Kiwi and high volume markets were desperately needed. Back then, Iran took more than 100,000 tons of frozen carcasses a year, or one lamb in four.

The renewed trade follows a February visit by Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy who signed a veterinary agreement to enable chilled and frozen lamb and beef exports to the Islamic Republic.

Relations have warmed since international sanctions against Tehran were eased after an accord was reached in 2015 on Iran’s nuclear program, at a time when New Zealand held the rotating presidency of the United Nations Security Council.

Gatenby said the lamb would be sold for retail and domestic consumption.

Meat Industry Association chief executive, Tim Ritchie, said Iran was significant because it was where New Zealand had “cut its teeth” in developing the capacity and expertise to service the needs of Muslim customers.

“Currently, some 25% of our exports are halal certified, of which around one-third is destined for the Muslim countries in the Middle East and Asia where it is a condition of market access; and the other two-thirds are destined for Muslim customers in non-Muslim countries–such as China.”

Ritchie said when he visited Iran with the minister, Iranian officials and businesses were “very keen” to do trade with New Zealand.  

“They import around 100,000 tons of red meat a year–10% of their consumption. The great majority of those imports are beef from Brazil and they are, therefore, keen to lift the lamb component.”

Iran was a significant market of nearly 80 million people. Because New Zealand meat marketing is now much more diversified, exporting to 120 countries, the trade would not reach the levels it used to.

In the 1970s and 1980s, New Zealand exporters and officials had to navigate difficult political waters as they negotiated trade deals.

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