Federated Farmers is urging Fonterra to tread very carefully in China, saying the co-operative's dairy farms there may pose a bigger threat to its reputation than the much criticised ventures planned for the Upper Waitaki region.
The co-operative has had a pilot farm in China since 2007 and plans to add another two farms. Each would have about 6000 cows, housed in giant barns in a feed-lot style operation.
Fonterra has raised concerns about the environmental impact of similar large scale indoor dairy farming ventures planned for the Ohau-Omarama area and what they might do to the industry's image.
The 16 dairy farms in South Canterbury would keep 18,000 cows indoors for eight months of the year.
Federated Farmers dairy farmers chair Lachlan McKenzie says Fonterra's own farms in China may do more to damage its brand integrity than the less intensive dairy systems proposed for the Upper Waitaki.