Five New Zealand infant formula makers have been approved for exporting their products to China, New Zealand Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye announced Thursday.
"These manufacturers represent around 90 percent of our infant formula exports to China by volume," Guy said in a joint statement from the ministers.
"New Zealand officials have been working intensively with manufacturers and Chinese officials to address corrective actions, allowing these five manufacturers to be registered as of May 1," he said.
"We appreciate the cooperative relationship with Chinese authorities in registering these New Zealand manufacturers. The new rules signal China's desire for greater accountability for imported infant formula from all countries."
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) was working with all manufacturers to ensure their compliance with the new Overseas Market Access Requirement (OMAR), issued Wednesday, setting out the requirements needed to produce infant formula for export to China.
"China has indicated that other manufacturers can be registered after May 1 if they meet the requirements verified by MPI," Kaye said in the statement.
MPI deputy director-general Roger Smith was currently in China working with Chinese officials, and they had informed New Zealand officials the register will be updated regularly, said Kaye.
"While the news is positive for manufacturers, for brand owners without a close relationship with the manufacturers the bar is going to be set high and some will struggle to meet the new rules. MPI has been working with industry and Chinese agencies to give brand owners greater clarity on what 'closer association' will mean and when this will apply," she said.
Exports of retail-ready infant formula had doubled in recent years and now represented about 4 percent of New Zealand's dairy exports to China, or about 200 million NZ dollars per year.
Radio New Zealand reported that the companies approved to continue exporting to China were Nutricia, Westland Cooperative Dairy Company Ltd., Canpac International Ltd, Dairy Goat Cooperative (NZ) Ltd. and Fonterra.