12 Sep 2013

Chinese consumers slow to accept Fonterra safety assurances

8:01 am on 12 September 2013

A dairy company says the message that New Zealand dairy products are safe is beginning to get through to Chinese businesses but it will take longer to convince consumers there.

Carrickmore Nutrition is part of a group of New Zealand infant formula manufacturers seeking to reassure clients following Fonterra's botulism scare.

Managing director Chris Claridge says provincial distributors and retailers in China understand there was nothing wrong with Fonterra whey products.

Mr Claridge told Morning Report that message now needs to get across to consumers and the group is in part relying on distributors to communicate with the market.

"Of course bad news in the media travels fast and travels well. Good news doesn't travel at the same velocity," he says.

Infant Formula Exporters Association chair Michael Barnett is leading a delegation to China in 10 days' time to reassure consumers that New Zealand products are safe.

The Government has announced a plan to restore New Zealand's reputation which includes visits by ministers and senior officials, as well as a $2 million fund to help firms contact customers and shore up business relationships.

Mr Barnett says he hopes the plan will revive the stalled trade relationship, which is claimed to be costing the industry millions of dollars a week in lost sales.

While small and medium-sized dairy firms have been buffeted by Fonterra's woes, other food and beverage firms appear unscathed.

100 percent Pure New Zealand Honey says it secured three new deals during a recent tour of China, while Morton Estate Wines says buyers remain enthusiastic about New Zealand's products.