coming up for air

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.

3 Responses to “coming up for air”

  1. Haidong Ji Says:

    Really great stuff. Thanks for sharing this.

    The article you linked to by Christopher Adams was really good, sounded very matter-of-fact/实事求是 and fair to me. Nice to see that kind of articles appear in a major paper in New Zealand

    You got me intrigued about Oravida so I did a bit of sleuthing. I ended up reading a bunch of articles regarding NZ politics, hints/allegations on money purchasing influences in NZ, and possibly xenophobia of the “yellow peril” type that I really don’t know what to make of and really don’t know enough to comment on. But here are some things that I found interesting and encouraging, mostly.

    1. It appears that Oravida was a pretty new New Zealand company, formed in 2009. The company name changed a couple of times, from Kiwi Dairy Corporation to Oravie then to Oravida. Its main focus is to import NZ dairy and other food products to China. I can understand why NZ government, media, dairy, food, and wine producers are excited about it.

    The company used scndesign, a company based in the US for its branding/marketing efforts. Yeah, it is milking on the 100% pure and natural New Zealand image to the last drop. Overall I think it did a good job, though.

    2. Oravida’s Chinese name is “兰维乐”. Its site has a section dedicated to food safety, where it lists scanned copies of certificate from China’s Inspection and Quarantine office at Pudong airport, certificate from New Zealand Food Safety Authority, Certificate of Analysis from the company where the milk actually came from, Green Valley Pure Milk. That Certificate of Analysis came from 206 Bell Road, Mangatawhiri, Pokeno, South Auckland. From Google Map, it really does look like a real dairy farm!

    3. Green Valley’s product listing has 2-litre bottle product on its site. This is a strong hint, but not proof of, that the product come from NZ in its original packaging, instead of a bulk load being shipped and then repackaged in China after arrival

    4. I think TMall and Taobao is working hard to bring trust, transparency, consistency, and reliability to the marketplace. I was encouraged by it, my natural skepticism toward large, monolithic entities notwithstanding. I hope they keep at it and wish them all the best.

    You know, this sounds really cheesy and official-speak, but New Zealand and China can and should build a lasting and mutually beneficial relationship.

  2. Chris_Waugh Says:

    Thanks, Mr Ji. I hadn’t checked out Oravida – it just struck me as a brand that has been built up while I’ve been away. It looks legitimate – although, if it is focussed on exports to China it runs the risk of being labelled a 假洋牌. But I do wonder why the name and address of the consignee on that Sanitary Certificate have been blurred out, and why although the place of arrival is 上海, the place of despatch is 新西兰 – I certainly remember New Zealand having more than one airport.

  3. Chris_Waugh Says:

    And a good thing Blogtown went down for several days. I had a long post on Oravida written, and discovered that only the beginning of it had been saved when Blogtown went down, but that gave me time to email Green Valley Dairies and I got a reply confirming they do make Oravida. Oravida is still risking getting tarred with the 假洋牌 brush, but at least their product is for real.