Is New Zealand becoming too reliant on China as a customer for primary product exports?
Fonterra’s chief operating officer global operations, Rob Spurway, says increasing Chinese appetite for NZ dairy is helping drive our region’s economies and now 11% of all dairy in China comes from Fonterra farmers.
In a message to mark the Chinese Year of the Pig last week, Spurway noted that last year NZ exports to China were worth at least $16.6 billion, and $3.8b of that was generated by Fonterra in rural and regional NZ.
In total, about 25% of Fonterra’s exports go to China and are consumed by about 150 million people.
“We’re not just talking about milk powder either,” says Spurway.
Fonterra mozzarella tops at least 500 million pizzas and NZ cream goes into 500 million tea macchiatos every year. “A little bit of NZ is ending up on shelves and tables across China and in return that product is helping put food on Kiwi tables,” he adds.
China export earnings help generate income for forklift drivers in Darfield, Maungaturoto tanker operators, cheesemakers in Stirling and processors at the co-op’s plant in Te Awamutu, Spurway says.
“The benefits of our relationship with China flow into communities as our employees and farmers support businesses, schools and other local organisations across the country.”
Waikato is among Fonterra’s biggest regions for China exports, totalling $1.2b in cream, cheese and milk powder -- about $2500 per person in the region.
Of Fonterra’s 30 NZ sites, Clandeboye in Canterbury was the top producer, exporting about $566m of products to China, Southland’s Edendale exported nearly $560m and Whareroa, Taranaki exported $437m.
Chinese consumer demand has a year-long positive effect, says Spurway.
“I’m fortunate my job has taken me to China a fair number of times and my sense of pride is as strong as ever when I see our products on shelves, in bakeries and in beverages.
“It’s special knowing that a little bit of regional and rural NZ has found its way into the lives of people in Shanghai, Beijing and Dongguan.”