OPINION: The decision by Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to impose an immediate halt to live animal exports in the wake the sinking of the Gulf Livestock 1 off the coast of Japan is a sensible move.
So says Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy, who recently visited China on a large trade mission led by Prime Minister John Key.
Agreements signed during the week-long mission will ultimately see more NZ food products going there. Notably, MPI and the China Certification and Accreditation Administration agreed to the Chinese recognising NZ's halal certification regime.
"We are the first country to have our halal standards certified; 33% of our halal certified exports go to China – about 77,000 tonnes," Guy says. "There are 20 million Muslims in China and this arrangement will give us a competitive advantage."
Another breakthough is a high-level agreement allowing NZ chilled meat into China. 'Technical' issues are still to be resolved by officials of both nations, but Guy hopes this will soon be sorted. NZ now exports only frozen meat to China.
"China is our largest market by volume for sheepmeat and the second for value at $730m," Guy says. "Beef also has huge potential. This opens the way for us to get chilled meat into high-end restaurants and supermarkets and that's exciting."
Alliance Meat Group and Zespri also signed deals.
Guy says China is now NZ's second-largest source of tourists -- just behind Australia -- and will soon be the largest. Chinese tourists coming here get a taste of NZ food, "and they are all, in effect, ambassadors," Guy told Rural News.
"So once they have spent time in NZ – as tourists or English language students – they go back to China and are effectively salespeople for NZ. It's our blue skies, fantastic environment and food – all underpinned by our world leading food safety systems.
"They go back and talk up NZ... and that helps us get our premium products into this lucrative market. Also important, there are 250 million to 300m middle class people in China -- expected to increase by 150m in the next 10 years, again in NZ's favour."
Guy says it is very hard to ascertain the size of the dairy stockpile in China, but Chinese officials believe things will be better next year.