By John Pagani
Isn't apple meant to complement pork?
It's ironic that in the same week our apples are finally sold in Australia, our pork industry has been in court trying to keep overseas pork out of New Zealand.
Their grounds bear a striking similarity to the grounds Australian apple growers used to exclude our product for about a century.
We have one of the few pork industries in the world that isn't affected by a disease that can kill young pigs (it doesn't affect consumers). They say that if we allow imported raw pork imports, there is a good chance the disease will get in and take root.
MAF says that's all trotters: They say that with a few careful controls, we can make sure imported pork doesn't bring the disease in.
Back in the day Aussie apple growers claimed our apples would bring disease to their crops. We produced all sorts of science to show it wasn't true. And they went to the courts to challenge the science and delay and misdirect for years, and the years turned into decades.
In both cases, the debate over science was a proxy for a deeper worry.
Our pig farmers are worried about trying to compete with big Canadian factory pork farms. The Aussies can't grow apples that taste like ours.
Biosecurity science is never going to be conclusive: You can always say something might squeak through. But if we took that literally we would never let anything in.
The court might make a decision to keep imported pork out.
But that still won't make the decision right.
If we're going to allow spurious science to keep our pork out then we are going to have to put up with Australians keeping our apples out. We'll have to accept French and UK farmers keeping our lamb out so they can keep food miles down, too. Food miles science is just about in the same category as the pork industry case.
Look at this piggery, where the owner pronounces the main problem is that New Zealand workers are 'lazy and unmotivated'.
So it's fine to bring in the workers to grow the pork, but there's a problem with bringing in pork?
What is the advantage to New Zealand workers and consumers from that?
If the industry wants sympathy, it really needs to be seen to be doing everything to respond to the preferences of Kiwi consumers. They have been distinctly trotter dragging in responding to concerns about sow stalls.
But if there is a sudden interest in our product, it will put pressure on apple growers there to reassess their business. Maybe what they need to do is innovate and develop new varieties or products that imported goods can't match.
That's how trade works, and all our trade exposed businesses have to adapt to it.
* John Pagani is an independent political consultant and writer who has worked as an adviser to Labour Leader Phil Goff. He writes his own blog at Posterous.