In June, the Meat Industry Association (MIA) led a top level red meat industry delegation to China, showing a united front in the market for the first time.
The 12-strong delegation of chairs, chief executives and very senior staff represented over 90 percent of New Zealand’s red meat exports. It included participants from Silver Fern Farms, Alliance Group, ANZCO Foods, AFFCO, Greenlea Premier Meats, Taylor Preston, Ovation and Advance Marketing. They met with Chinese regulatory authorities, industry bodies and customers and also attended the World Meat Congress, held from 14-16 June in Beijng.
The visit was all about building whole of industry relationships in a key market for New Zealand, says MIA chief executive Tim Ritchie.
“It was also a great example of industry co-operating where it made sense to do so and follows sustained and rapid growth in New Zealand meat exports to China over the recent years following the signing of the NZ-China free trade agreement,” he says.
According to the MIA, Statistics New Zealand overseas merchandise trade data shows that in the year to end March 2014, China was New Zealand’s top sheepmeat market earning $787 million – up 71 percent on the previous year – and at $191 million our second largest beef market (up 61 percent on last year). Total meat industry exports to China were worth $1.3 billion over the period.
Strong demand confirmed
Lamb, mutton, edible offals plus tripe, casings, tallow, hides and skins and meat and bone meal all feature in the mix of products destined for the market.
“There is very strong demand in China for the New Zealand meat industry’s products,” according to Ritchie
The visit reinforced the importance of whole of industry-to-industry co-operation and trust building, he says.
Government role critical
The New Zealand Government’s role is critical in the development of the China market. Over the last year, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has expanded its resources devoted to China in recognition of its importance as a market for New Zealand primary sector exports and the need to deepen the relationship with key government agencies there.
This improved relationship was highlighted shortly after the visit, when a number of new plants were approved to export to China.
Commercial relationships built up over years
While the delegation’s visit was an important first step for the industry as a whole, Ritchie says it should be remembered that over the last 10-15 years many New Zealand meat companies have been developing significant commercial relationships in China.
This article has appeared in Food NZ magazine (August/September 2014) and is reproduced here with permission.