The Meat Industry Association has lambasted the Govts approval of only 15 long-term critical worker visas for halal butchers – when 45 are “desperately” needed – the MIA claims the Government is tone deaf to the needs of business. Halal certified products contributed about $3.7 billion of annual export earnings and the sector typically recruits only 100 halal butchers domestically due to New Zealand’s small Muslim population and the nature of the job. MIA chief executive Sirma Karapeeva says a recent national recruitment campaign resulted in 27 applications. Of those, 19 didn’t turn up for interviews and of the seven suitable candidates, only two were willing to move to anywhere in New Zealand. Five would only work in Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch. Alliance Lorneville Plant Manager Shashank Pande says they have 11 jobs but only 5 butchers and it causes all sorts of issues. 49 out of 55 processing plants in New Zealand operate halal systems and rely on 250 halal butchers. MIA chief executive Sirma Karapeeva says the “miserly” approval knee-capped the ability of the second-largest goods export sector to fully contribute to New Zealand’s economy and capture higher value from its exports.