25 Nov 2009

Fonterra rebuilding China business - carefully

7:56 pm on 25 November 2009

Fonterra is rebuilding its business in China, with the focus on selling safe milk products through a secure supply chain.

The co-operative has made little comment about the execution of two people for their parts in last year's contaminated milk scandal, which bankrupted San Lu, the Chinese dairy company it part-owned.

But chief executive Andrew Ferrier outlined the new approach in September when he said the company wouldn't be getting involved in processing dairy products again in China until it could be sure of controlling the supply chain.

Fonterra describes the deaths of six children and the illness of hundreds of thousands of others from consuming melamine-tainted milk powder as a terrible tragedy, and says there are now regulations in place to stop anything like that from happening again.

Twenty one people were convicted for their involvement in supplying and selling the contaminated powder, including the former head of San Lu, who was sentenced to life in prison.

Fonterra had to write off the entire $200m value of its 43% stake in the company. Since then, it hasn't been rushing into any new joint ventures with Chinese companies. But it still supplies milk from its own 3,000-cow farm in China, and exports New Zealand milk powder and ingredients to China.