June 15th, 2013
I’m still here. Don’t worry. Just been a bit busy, is all. Also, the NZHerald suddenly paying a lot more attention to China and particularly NZ-China trade has taken a bit of steam out of me… but that’s a good thing, because it means good writers publishing useful information in places people will actually read it. Fran O’Sullivan and Christopher Adams, in particular, at the Herald have impressed me, with this piece by Adams a good example of why.
I like that article because it’s clear Adams has been keeping an eye on this issue for some time, is getting good information, and understands the issues – including why some in China may be casting doubt on the claims many companies make regarding their “NZ made” formula. It’s a rather long quote, but here’s a great example:
The opaque nature of some firms involved in New Zealand’s baby milk trade became evident when the Weekend Herald tried to track down a company named in one of the CCTV news stories.
When a CCTV journalist showed up at the address, however, it turned out to be an auto repair shop on Great South Rd and staff at the business had never heard of the company supposedly involved in formula trade.
The Weekend Herald spent two afternoons combing the streets of east Auckland trying to track down the directors of the company, using details filed with the New Zealand Companies Office.
The Pakuranga address listed for one of the directors turned out to be non-existent.
The following day the firm’s accountant changed the details to another house on the same street, saying the previous address had been the result of a “typing error”.
A woman at the second address said the director – who had an entirely different address listed on the shareholder information page of the Companies Office website – didn’t live there.
Another shareholder is registered as living in an apartment block on Karangahape Rd, but the manager says no one of that name lives, or has recently lived, in the building.
Oh, and wait:
The People’s Daily newspaper reported that CCTV also sent a can of New Bay Bay for testing by the Government import authority in China, which found the product had selenium levels below Chinese standards.
New Bay Bay is apparently produced by Sutton Group. Sutton Group products failed inspection at least twice last year. How many times do they need to fail inspection before they learn?
But the comments of Westland Milk Products’ Rod Quin I find particularly interesting. He also “gets it”:
some serious issues need fixing, not least contract manufactured brands passing themselves off in China as “reputable New Zealand dairy processors”.
“We’ve traded on a safe and secure supply chain and high quality dairy products for many years and these guys chasing short-term opportunity put a lot of that at risk,” says Quin.
And his comments on the relative merits of dry blending versus wet blending are also solid food for thought – and suggest the solid professionalism of a former boss of mine, also a Coaster – do it properly the first time or just don’t do it.
Anyway, it’s just good to see people who Get It, in the media, the industry and even government, and it’s good to see the message getting out and getting listened to.
But what to do, especially in light of the possible political motivations behind certain events in China recently targetting NZ products, as discussed in Adams’ article?
Well, first of all, clean the industry up. And yes, a fairly large part of the issue needs to be dealt with by the Hong Kong and Mainland Chinese authorities. New Zealand’s authorities (MPI, Customs, whoever) can’t do a thing once the product is on a ship out in international waters. But there is a lot that NZ can do to clean up within its own shores. Like, for example, how is it that a company exporting large amounts of anything be registered to an address it has no connection to beyond the claim it made in its Companies Office registration? Can nobody in the Companies Office make a simple phone call, stop by the address claimed, or even just zoom in on Google Maps and hit Street View (?! yeah, really, try it some time… It’s pretty amazing to see the registered address of a company exporting large volumes of product looking for all the world like a suburban townhouse or some completely different company’s headquarters)? And what of these contract manufacturers? How much do they know, or bother to find out about, the brands they manufacture for? How much should they be required to know? And how is it that Sutton Group products fail inspection so often?!
Secondly, engage the Chinese consumer… and in that respect, this post by KEA on Weibo was interesting. The NZ Pure Shop has opened on Tmall to sell 100% pure NZ produce to Chinese consumers. Wait… I can buy Weetbix?! Apparently not… 2 litres of Oravida milk (not a brand that I remember, but an intersting apparent blend of Maori and Romance words for life, and it’s not like I’ve lived in NZ for… umm… a long time…) going for 128 yuan (around NZ$23! Strikes me as being rather steep, but then again, haven’t lived in NZ for… ). But my big question is “Who’s behind this?” Well, if they could get Trade Minister Tim Groser to officially open the store, it must be somebody fairly respectable, surely. But I’m struggling to find out who. None of the links I follow seem to offer any enlightenment. Nelson mayor Aldo Miccio apparently opened a NZ Inc Shop on Tmall, but I remember searching Tmall for it at the time and finding nothing. Still can’t. Whatever, I can certainly see plenty of room for greater clarity on who’s behind this NZ Pure Shop and how much we can trust them.