New Zealand and Canada will start exchanging meat export data electronically next month.
Canadian trade and agriculture officials visited New Zealand recently to look at using the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry's electronic food export certification system e-cert.
Canada is the first country to use e-cert but MAF is talking to other importers of New Zealand meat and seafood, including some in the United States, Europe, Middle Eastern and Asian countries. The digital certification system was also discussed at an APEC conference earlier this month, says e-cert project manager Ashley Mudford.
The system, which has been used by MAF and the local meat industry for two years, replaces the sending of paper certificates. Under the paper system veterinarians and inspectors authorise meat for export and a paper certificate accompanies the meat to the country importing it.
Mudford says initially, paper certificates will still accompany meat exports to Canada as it is a requirement of Canadian law.
He says major benefits over the paper system are that it reduces the opportunity for fraud, provides a faster turnaround with product approvals, reduces errors and integrates more fully with other systems, such as those of MAF and Customs.
MAF is also developing a dairy electronic certification programme, which is expected to be available in the next few months.
E-cert was originally developed following a European Union directive that all exporting countries should go digital on export certification. While the instruction was rescinded shortly after, MAF decided to go ahead and develop the system.