2000 Kiwi cows in Taiyuan

February 13th, 2012

An item in Baidu’s email news alert for 新西兰 this morning was a report of 2000 Holstein dairy cows from New Zealand arriving in Taiyuan. It includes the sentence:

它们落户后,将为太原市民提供世界上最优质的牛奶。

After they settle in, they’ll supply the citizens of Taiyuan with the world’s finest quality milk.

But, wow, the procedure for getting in to see the new cattle… don protective clothing, stand for five minutes in a room full of UV lamps for disinfection. This farm is taking its Holsteins seriously.

And I’m thinking, now here’s a positive way New Zealand can contribute to China and make money at the same time:

2010年6月,九牛牧业投资5000万元,委托北京中地种畜进出口公司在新西兰订购荷斯坦奶牛2000头。

In June 2010, Jiuniu Group [note: that seems to be their English name, but the company seems to be based in Anhui and hasn’t updated the news section of their website for a year, so hard to tell for sure] invested 50 million yuan, entrusting Sinofarm to purchase 2000 head of Holstein cows from New Zealand.

And it’s not just about the production of quality fresh milk, as the last paragraph shows:

同时,该牧场还是一个集奶牛养殖、原奶生产、沼气发电、有机肥加工为一体的养殖产业园区,也是一个全省规模最大的奶牛产业化繁育基地。养殖产生的粪污通过 地下管网输送到沼气站,通过厌氧发酵处理,每年产生沼气146万立方米,不仅可以满足牧场用电,还能为周边2000多农户提供日常电能。沼气利用后产生的 沼渣、沼液经过深加工,每年向市场提供6.2万吨的有机肥,可覆盖15万亩农田的有机种植,达到科学养殖的良性循环。同时,还能为社会提供600多个就业 岗位。因此说,这一牧场的建成,对太原市民来说是一项重要的民生工程。

All at once, this farm is a unified breeding and production facility for breeding cows, milk production, electricity generation from methane and organic fertliser processing. It’s also one of the province’s [Shanxi] largest industrialised cow breeding bases. Sewage produced in raising the cattle will be sent through a network of underground pipes to a methane station, and through a process of anaerobic fermentation, will produce 1.46 million cubic metres of methane annually. This is not only enough to provide for the farm’s electricity needs, but also to supply electricity to the more than 2000 surrounding rural households. After further processing, the biogas residues and slurry produced after using the methane can supply the market with 62 thousand tonnes of organic fertiliser each year, which can cover 150 thousand mu of organic cultivation, forming a good scientific production cycle. At the same time, the farm provides 600 employment opportunities. Therefore it can be said the construction of this farm is an important project for the livelihoods of Taiyuan’s citizens.

Alright, it is a bit relentlessly upbeat, and the numbers can be taken with as many grains of salt as you please, but it strikes me that there are lessons here that New Zealand’s dairy farmers would benefit from learning.

Now, presumably some of that 50 million yuan (very roughly NZ$5 million) went to the New Zealand farmer(s) that bred the cattle. I certainly haven’t seen any reports of 2000 head of cattle suddenly being snatched away to China – and given the importance of dairy to New Zealand’s economy, I’m pretty sure mass uncompensated disapperance’s of dairy cows would raise more than a few headlines. And so I got to poking around the NZ news to see if this had been reported. The obvious first start being the Kiwi equivalent of the 中国农业网 that this article appeared on – Rural News. I searched for both ‘Taiyuan’ and ‘China’. ‘Taiyuan’ got me nothing. You can see what ‘China’ got. Nothing relevant to this story. NZ Herald? Again, nothing. Stuff? Again, nothing. TVNZ? Again, nothing. TV3? Again, nothing.

Now, maybe I’m crazy, but given all the hysteria over Shanghai Pengxin’s purchase of the Crafar Farms and all the prejudiced, ignorant, nonsensical, frequently unfounded, and sometimes just barely sensical (“But Kiwis can’t buy land in China!” True, but neither can Chinese people. One can buy land use rights, even if one is foreign, although of course, just as foreign investors in NZ have to satisfy certain regulations surrounding the national security/interest (OIA), so do foreigners investing in China) commentary coverage of this saga has elicited, I would’ve thought there’d be a place in the New Zealand media for reporting on positive ways New Zealand can contribute to China and make money. Afterall, the NZ-China FTA was supposed to be a two-way street, wasn’t it? And not at all about selling NZ off to foreigners ([gasp!] Chinese foreigners, too!), as we’ve all been whingeing about since the 4th Labour Government.

So why not get a little perspective? And why not look at ways we can swing this FTA into a mutual-benefit kinda deal, like it’s supposed to be? Seems to me that the Chinese are several kilometres down the road on that than my fellow Kiwis, and NZ has a lot of catching up to do. Step 1: Drop the fear (crouch, hold). Step 2: Engage.

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