National | Business

Māori businesses to benefit from new food labelling bill

Customers will soon know how far their apples fall from the tree with the passing of The Consumers' Right to Know (Country of Origin of Food) Bill. The bill introduces mandatory labelling to inform consumers where their meat, fruit, seafood and vegetables come from.

Te Awe Māori Business Network deputy chair Paul Retimanu says Māori businesses could see it as an opportunity to boost the value of their products.

“Because people are more of a foodie community they want to know really where their food is coming from, they want to know the particular region it's coming from.

"For Māori in particular, obviously a lot of the industries we're in include forestry, farming and fishing so for us it's a great thing."

Green MP Gareth Hughes carried the member’s bill.  It will include one-ingredient, fresh, frozen, unprocessed or minimally processed foods but won’t include tinned varieties or mixed frozen vegetables.

Hughes says, "Māori really have been at the forefront of the food sovereignty movement and this is a great step forward because at the moment we haven't even been able to work out where our food comes from."

Hughes says around 85 percent of ham and bacon in Aotearoa comes from overseas; the majority from countries with worse animal welfare standards.

Retimanu says, “The [businesses] that are out in the regions that are struggling a little bit, this is where they can actually add a bit more value to what their product is with regards to growing grass-fed.  Those sorts of things and people in the cities are prepared to pay a bit more."

The bill allows for an extension to other foods at a later stage and Māori businesses think that should include mānuka honey.

Federation of Māori Authorities chair Traci Houpapa says, “I totally agree with that.  I think it should extend to all foods but that's something we can work on in the next 18 months."

Te Kāea asked whether Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi thought Māori seeking to extend the food list to include mānuka honey was valid.

He says, "I see some of their points.  There's a process underway that I don't want to sully so I don't want to give too much of an opinion on that."

It will take 18 months for the regulations to be established before the new labels hit the shelves, six months for fresh food and two years for frozen.

Houpapa says if Māori and industry collaborate to build an international Aotearoa brand it would be a win for Māori economic development.