June 22nd, 2013
I found two interesting little articles in my inbox today. One had some interesting statistics on imports of New Zealand milk powder into China. The other makes the kind of claim that makes you do a classic Hollywood double take and eye bugging.
First the statistics. This article has only three short paragraphs, the second of which is yet another rehash of the basic types of Made in NZ infant formula. But the first has some interesting statistics. According to Shanghai customs, 114 thousand tons of New Zealand milk powder were imported in 2012 (presumably only into Shanghai), an increase of 85.2%. An increase of 85.2% over the previous year? I assume so. From January to May 2013 85 thousand tons of milk powder had been imported, an increase of 81.5% – again the same assumptions of “into Shanghai” and “over the previous year”. Chinese dairy industry expert Wang Dingmian – who seems to be the Chinese media’s go to person for such things – said 75% of milk powder imported into China came from New Zealand.
Then in an intriguing third paragraph, Wang explains that you can tell a lot about which particular model of formula production has been used by studying the labelling. The barcode, for example, can tell you where the product was made. If the barcode prefix is in the 690 – 695 range, it was made in China. 76 is Switzerland, and 93 are both Australia and New Zealand. I guess now I’m going to have to learn how to read barcode numbers, because looking at a few around me I’m not sure what the prefix is. A packet of milk candy next to me has a 6 to the left, and then just inside the two long lines at the left end of the code, 93. Do I put those together to get a 693 prefix saying “made in China”? And looking at a couple of books beside me, the barcode numbers seem to be identical to the ISBN, so is all this industry specific? And then it says consumers with any suspicions can ask vendors to provide evidence of import and inspection – but as Mr Ji found out researching Oravida, many of the formula brands are already putting various kinds of evidence on their websites, so a quick Google or Baidu should suffice.
This article ends with the odd, lonely, little sentence stating the reporter learned that many Shanghai dairy companies use New Zealand milk. How that comes as a surprise when until recently Shanghai’s own Bright owned a majority stake in Synlait, and still has a fairly hefty stake in Synlait, I don’t know, but never mind.
The next article reports that starting June 20 all infant formula exported from New Zealand to China would have to be registered with the Ministry of Primary Industries. This isn’t really news. Christopher Adams of the NZ Herald reported it last Saturday, for example:
Until now, the ministry hasn’t been able to say how many brands are being exported to China. However this week it announced that from June 20, contract manufacturers will have to register with the department information about the brands they produce.
But here’s the sentence that had me up for an Oscar for Best Eye Bugging Double Take:
The source of some milk powder is not New Zealand, rather it is milk produced in China and exported then shipped back and labelled.
Wow. Just wow. There have already been a few caught selling “made in NZ” powder that wasn’t, but going to these lengths? I guess that’d get them documentation from Customs and AQSIQ to say the milk powder was in fact imported.
This article also reports that China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology held a conference with 127 infant formula companies and plans to soon put out a policy to ban the registration overseas but manufacture in China Western infant formula trade and expand the scope of its management of imported milk powder.