February 3rd, 2013
No, DCD milk is not out of the news yet, but it may be calming down – certainly didn’t see anything new about it today, just a few more rehashes of old stuff. Maybe Fonterra’s really lucky. We’ll see.
But it’s not all bad news. This article is so short I might as well just translate the whole thing:
New Zealand exports of dairy cows to China account for over 80% of exports
据新华社讯 2012年中国对新西兰进口奶牛需求大幅增长。据新西兰统计局日前公布的数据，2012年前11个 月，新西兰共出口38232头奶牛至中国，出口额高达1亿新西兰元（约合5.2亿元人民币），而2011年同期，新西兰出口至中国24924头奶牛，出口 额6320万新西兰元（约合3.3亿元人民币）。
Xinhua reports that in 2012 Chinese demand for imported New Zealand cows increased dramatically. According to statistics released by Statistics New Zealand the day before yesterday [note: January 31; the article is dated February 2], in the first 11 months of 2012 New Zealand exported a total of 3823 dairy cows to China with an export value of 100 million New Zealand dollars (around 520 million RMB), while in the same period in 2011, New Zealand exported 24934 dairy cows to China, with a value of 63.2 million New Zealand dollars (around 330 million RMB).
The statistics show that in the first 11 months of last year, New Zealand exported a total of 43517 dairy cows with a total export value of 112 million New Zealand dollars (around 587 million RMB), and China is New Zealand’s biggest dairy cow export market, taking 88% of its exports.
And that’s it. Ok, so that’s bad news from an animal welfare point of view if you’re the Green Party. I’m not sure it’s good news for China’s environment, given how much water dairy cows need and how much waste they produce. But China’s obviously very keen to improve the quality of its dairy herd, and that’s a lot of money finding its way to New Zealand.
But exporting live cows does seem a rather short term strategy to me. Surely at some point China will have enough to both boost the quality and amount of milk production and breed its own top quality dairy cows, and if China is producing its own top quality milk, surely demand for New Zealand-produced infant formula will gradually drop – assuming China’s dairy companies manage to regain the trust of Chinese parents, of course. Still, Fonterra mishandling food safety scares could help with that.
And then I found this odd little article headlined:
And I thought, huh? Some New Zealand products successfully built in China for the first time? Which products? And how would this make sense even if I knew which products?
But reading the article, it became clear that this 新西兰部分产品/”some New Zealand products” is actually the name of a company or organisation. A strange name for a company or organisation, but it must be a name, because a proportion of products from any country doesn’t generally announce things – companies, organisations and people do. So a bit of googling, and it took a while, but I suspect this 新西兰部分产品 might be Fonterra. Why?
恒天然 is the usual Chinese name for Fonterra. It’s got that 部分产品, but the context suggests that’s part of the company name rather than “some of Fonterra’s products”. 魏柯文, greater China director of this mysterious company, is the same name as given in the first article (although the first article doesn’t give a title or job description), and a little more poking around found me this Caijing article from December in which “恒天然大中华区和印度区总裁” – Fonterra Greater China Region and India Region director 魏柯文(Kelvin Wickham) is interviewed.
So how did Fonterra become 新西兰部分产品? Sure, their New Zealand products count as some New Zealand products. But 新西兰部分产品 is a really strange and misleading name for a company. But they seem to be sticking with their old Chinese name 恒天然 on their website, so I doubt this is some weird and ill-advised attempt to dodge the DCD flak. So if that article and that post are reporting Fonterra’s deeds in Hebei, then it would seem we have quite a spectacular case of ‘lost in translation’. Either that or a company in the same line of work with a boss with the same Chinese name as Fonterra’s China and India boss is also building massive dairy farms in Hebei, but made a spectacularly poor choice of Chinese name. Nah, I think lost in translation is more likely.
I wonder if somewhere out there there’s an article headlined “新西兰恒天然公司部分产品首个在华牧场顺利建成” and through a process of careless copying and pasting, the all-important 恒天然公司, the actual name of the company, got dropped out and Fonterra was renamed. Google doesn’t seem to think so. Maybe it’s a copyediting problem. Either way, it leaves me wondering how trustworthy the figures reporting what strikes me as being pretty huge scale dairy farm construction in Hebei’s Yutian county. It’s not the first article I’ve seen reporting farm construction on such a scale, but if they can make such a glaring error in the name of the company, who knows what else they’ve done.
Still, Caijing did report in December last year that Fonterra plans to have 30 farms in China by 2020, and that China is now Fonterra’s largest export market, taking 16-17% of Fonterra’s New Zealand-made products and accounting for 12-15% of its sales. So maybe there is some truth to the huge numbers reported for their farms in Hebei. Who knows.