sorting things out

September 29th, 2012

Caijing reports that New Zealand is going to crack down on illegal purchasing agents buying infant formula for shipment to China. It’s an odd article, offering a quick and incomplete summary of a report from AQSIQ, then attaching said report. The AQSIQ report begins:

新西兰严打非法邮寄婴儿配方奶粉出境

New Zealand to crack down on the illegal posting overseas of infant formula

9月28日,新西兰初级产业部(MPI)与新西兰海关在官方网站发表声明,联合开展行动打击非法输出婴儿配方奶粉的行为。依据1999年颁布的新西兰动物 产品法案规定,一切将奶制品带离新西兰本土的行为都被视为输出,包括网购及亲友赠送等渠道,而只有在初级产业部注册备案的出口商才有资格输出包括婴儿配方 奶粉在内的奶制品。这意味着除代理商进口之外其他途径输往中国的新西兰婴儿配方奶粉都在此次严打活动的范围内,包括网络代购。

On September 28 the New Zealand Minsitry of Primary Industries (MPI) and New Zealand Customs said on their official websites that they would work together to fight the illegal export of infant formula. According to regulations in the New Zealand Animal Products Act promulgated in 1999, all actions taking dairy products out of New Zealand territory are seen as exports, including online purchases and gifts from friends and family, and only exporters registered with the MPI are qualified to export dairy products, including infant formula. This means that other than those of importing agents, all other channels for shipping New Zealand infant formula to China, including online purchases, fall within the scope of this crackdown.

And a quick glance at the MPI’s website confirms this. I note their press release quotes MPI Manager Food and Beverage Glen Neal:

“This has nothing to do with the safety of New Zealand infant formula,” Mr Neal says. “In fact, New Zealand infant formula is highly regarded and sought after in our export markets.”

Right, but that reputation needs to be carefully protected, as recent reports of substandard and possibly fake New Zealand infant forumla in the Chinese media demonstrate. That reputation is oh-so-enticing to the unscrupulous, and it’s so easy to slap a “Made in clean, green, 100% pure New Zealand” label on your product, whether you can even find NZ on a map or not. It’s also easy for unscrupulous manufacturers and exporters to cut a few corners in production and/or quality control. After all, there’s so much fake and substandard stuff on sale in China, nobody’s gonna notice, right? Indeed, Neal seems to agree on the need to protect  our reputation:

Our action is about protecting the confidence New Zealand’s international trading partners have in our system of standards for exports, and at the same time ensuring a level playing field applies for all exporters of animal products in New Zealand.

And it is good to see this getting media coverage in New Zealand – though I note the major newspapers are apparently missing in action again.

AQSIQ’s report, as carried in Caijing, goes on to note that the illegal export of infant formula is a risk to product quality, health and safety and:

  新西兰初级产业部与新西兰海关同时宣布,将对非法输出婴儿配方奶粉的公司和个人处以最高30万新西兰元和5万新西兰元的处罚,并酌情决定是否对其提出指控。

New Zealand’s MPI and New Zealand Customs also said companies and individuals illegally exporting infant formula could be fined a maximum amount of NZ$300 thousand and NZ$50 thousand respectively and charges would be laid at MPI’s and Customs’ discretion.

国家质检总局动植司提醒国内消费者谨慎选择经邮寄途径进境的新西兰婴儿配方奶粉,避免因此造成不必要的损失。

AQSIQ’s animal and plant department reminds domestic consumers to be cautious in choosing New Zealand infant formula imported by post in order to avoid unnecessary losses.

And it’s good to see cooperation from the Chinese end, too. After all, its the health and safety of Chinese children at risk, and the demand for imported milk powder is so insane thanks to the near complete lack of trust in China’s own dairy companies* that it is extremely easy for the less-than-moral to hawk fake or substandard product – and that has already been happening, as I have ranted about in the two previous posts to this blog linked above.

But you know what? I really hope this crackdown turns into a permanent strict monitoring of dairy exports. Because as I have ranted, New Zealand’s reputation for quality, purity and safety in one of its biggest markets could disappear almost overnight if even only a few exporters are caught selling substandard or fake product. New Zealand needs to not only jealously guard its reputation, but ensure that its exporters live up to the hype.

*Yes, I admit, we buy imported, too, for precisely the same reason as everybody else.

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