Between Fonterra’s bacterial contamination scare and Westland Milk Products’ elevated levels of nitrates, New Zealand officials are left in damage control to keep international relations strong and restore confidence in the country’s dairy supply.
In a trip to China, New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully apologized at a recent news conference, according to TV New Zealand.
"The New Zealand government has high expectations for New Zealand exports, including the application of strict food-safety standards. When issues arise, we expect good disclosure and remedial action," McCully said.
"China is an extremely important trading partner and we are committed to responding to this issue in a timely and cooperative manner," he added.
Bloomberg reports that McCully pledged to notify Chinese authorities on “what has happened here, what issues need to be addressed and to provide certainty to consumers that quality food from New Zealand can be relied upon.”
“We have a total and absolute commitment to meeting the standards which would be required for that trade to continue to grow,” McCully said.
Next McCully has announced plans to extend his trip to Sri Lanka, where high levels of the agricultural chemical dicyandiamide found in two batch of Fonterra’s milk powder ignited protests. On Friday Fonterra announced it had suspended operation in the country. See more from Reuters here.
Dairy accounts for 28 percent of New Zealand’s overseas sales. China overtook Australia as the nation’s largest trade partner this year and purchased NZ$3 billion of New Zealand’s dairy products during the first half of 2013.
While the contamination scares is unfortunate for the country, University of Wisconsin-Madison professor emeritus Bob Cropp told Wisconsin Public Radio that is creates an opportunity for the U.S. dairy industry.
“It’s going to help U.S. exports and Wisconsin, of course, is a big exporter of whey proteins,” he said. “So I suspect that we may sell more products to China because of that. They trust us.”