Southland in New Zealand is facing a significant shortfall of halal slaughtermen, risking the closure of halal processing chains and potentially costing the industry millions, a new report says.
The Southland Murihiku Regional Skills Report, released last month, said a shortage of halal slaughtermen could mean Southland processing chains may close given the role was critical in order to meet market requirements for halal meat.
The knock-on effects of the closures would include “hundred of workers losing work and/or potentially their jobs”, the report says.
Halal-certified products contribute about $3.7 billion to New Zealand’s annual export earnings.
Meat Industry Association (MIA) chief executive Sirma Karapeeva said Southland, like many other regions, was in desperate need of halal workers and had been for some time.
New Zealand processing companies typically need about 250 halal butchers, she said, but the sector can usually only recruit about 100 domestically because of the country’s small Muslim population.
In December last year, the MIA called for a special visa for halal butchers to be introduced, as the religious requirement for slaughtermen to be Muslim meant the shortage could not be addressed through training.
The Government proposed 15 visas be approved for halal butchers to enter New Zealand, but that number would not cover the current national shortage, Karapeeva said.
Halal butchers were critical to creating high-value exports, she said.
By processing each animal using halal practices, carcasses could be sent to various markets around the world. This means that whilst only 43 percent of New Zealand products are halal certified, over 90 percent of animals are processed in a halal manner.
“Without sufficient labor, companies may be forced to reduce value-add processing by either sending more parts of the carcass for rendering into lower meat and bone meal or freezing carcasses rather than further processing into value add chilled and bone-less cuts,” she said.
“This downgrades a lamb carcass by around $15 each, which impacts overall export value and return to farmers.”
The flow-on effects of these downgrades or closures would impact animal welfare, farmer wellbeing, and the regional economy, she said.
“This means fewer opportunities for hard-working Kiwis, often in the regions to earn a good wage and longer waiting times for farmers to get their livestock processed,” she said.
Originally published on www.stuff.co.nz