PM Key: Milk scare hurt all NZ exports
NEW Zealand's entire export industry has suffered from the contamination scare that prompted China to halt imports of milk powder made by Fonterra, Prime Minister John Key said.
Damage from the incident would be hard to quantify as it affected all of New Zealand's exports around the world, rather than just dairy sales to China, Mr Key said in an interview with Television New Zealand yesterday.
"Fonterra is the poster child for New Zealand's exporting, whether we like that or not," Mr Key said, according to a transcript of the interview.
"It's really about what is the damage to New Zealand's reputation, both for Fonterra and for dairy products, but also for the wider products we sell into the Chinese market and other markets overseas."
In a separate interview, Fonterra chief executive officer Theo Spierings put the cost at "tens of millions" of New Zealand dollars.
New Zealand's currency fell to a one-month low after Fonterra, the world's largest dairy exporter and the country's biggest company, said on Aug 3 that a dirty pipe at a processing plant may have tainted whey protein used in milk powder with botulism-causing bacteria. China halted imports of some Fonterra products and the official news agency Xinhua said buyers were losing faith in New Zealand's clean image.
Foreign Minister Murray McCully will visit China in about a week and trade minister Tim Groser will follow him in a "few weeks or months", Ms Kelly Boxall, Mr Key's spokesman, said by phone yesterday.
Mr Key will wait to visit Beijing until an inquiry into the incident is complete because "he wants to be able to look them in the eye and give them answers", she said.
Fonterra has "got a lot of soul-searching to get through" after the incident, Mr Key said, adding that "for the most part they're a great company".
Criticism of the country's "100% Pure New Zealand" image in the wake of the incident was being driven by "opponents" who "want to create mischief", he said, singling out the Daily Mail, a British newspaper, which criticised the country's environmental record in a report last week.