New Zealand resumes exports to China
Updated 19:11, 07-May-2020
By Owen Poland

New Zealand exporters are breathing a sigh of relief as demand from 
China for imported food picks up in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the past few weeks, exporters have reported a renewed appetite for a wide variety of products ranging from rock lobsters to kiwifruit and 
honey and hopes are high that New Zealand's reputation for food quality and safety will help the economy recover.

"China is absolutely critical to New Zealand's economic wellbeing," says New Zealand China Council chief executive Rachel Maidment. Despite the closing of borders in February, total exports to China fell by just 5.8 
percent in March but she says that "really high demand for good 
quality, healthy, New Zealand products has assisted with the export 

One of the first casualties of the COVID-19 crisis was the NZ$320 
million-dollar rock lobster industry which was effectively shut down 
following China's decision to stop Chinese New Year celebrations in late January.

Canceled export orders led to some lobsters being returned to the sea, 
but the delicacy was back on the menu for the Labor Day holiday and the chairman of Lobster Exporters of New Zealand, Andrew Harvey, says that "consumers are obviously back in restaurants and looking for 
premium seafood, and we are very fortunate to have caught a wild lobster species which is recognized in China as the best in the world."

Beekeepers are also celebrating a strong demand for manuka honey, which is well known for its anti-bacterial qualities. High-grade manuka honey can fetch up to 400 New Zealand dollars a kilo, and exporters say orders from China have more than doubled in recent weeks as consumers search for products that could help boost immunity.

High grade manuka honey can fetch up to 400 New Zealand dollars a kilo. /CGTN

High grade manuka honey can fetch up to 400 New Zealand dollars a kilo. /CGTN

New Zealand's reputation as a world leader in food safety will be a key factor in future success, and the Manuka Honey Appellation Society has applied for a certification trademark in China to prove that their product is high quality - and trustworthy. "The demand for manuka honey coming out of China is strong", says chief executive John Rawcliffe, "and we've got to get that simple message to the consumer in China that this is manuka and the rating system has a real value."

A bumper kiwifruit harvest and higher prices for milk powder and meat have also helped to boost export returns, but other parts of the economy haven't fared so well. Forestry was hit hard by the cancellation of raw log exports to China in February, and the closing of borders to foreign nationals has brought the multi-billion-dollar international tourism and education sectors to a grinding halt.

Nevertheless, Rachel Maidment says there are some promising opportunities on the horizon, like a collaboration with China in the creative sector. "Content creation hasn't been impacted by COVID-19, and that's an area that we'd really like to see grow and develop in the future."

(Cover via VCG)