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Current as of 19/12/14 07:40PM NZST

Brian Fallow

The Economics Editor of the NZ Herald

Formula scare: Hong Kong hotline gets hundreds of calls

More than 80,000 cans of suspect infant formula have been recalled in Hong Kong and a hotline set up by the city's authorities has been fielding hundreds of calls.

"That is one supplier. There are other incidents still being investigated," Hong Kong's Commerce Minister, Gregory So, said during a visit to Wellington yesterday.

"So far we are not suspecting any further contamination. But the situation is quite fluid and really a lot of it depends on information provided to us by the New Zealand Government."

The Hong Kong Government has not placed any restrictions on imports of New Zealand dairy products. But it takes food safety very seriously, according to So.

As do the city's consumers.

"With any problem of food safety which comes up, the public would like to know that it will not be repeated and what measures will be put in place to ensure future incidents do not happen," he said.

"Consumers in Hong Kong are quite sophisticated, so they will need to know what measures have been taken to remedy the situation."

So was in Wellington to talk about ways Hong Kong can assist New Zealand firms looking to expand into mainland China and the Asean region.

He compared the city's role to the adaptors travellers carry to enable them to use electric appliances in other countries' power sockets.

"We are the universal adaptor."

The city was well placed, he said, as China sought to expand the services component of its economy - currently 43 per cent of gross domestic product as against 70 per cent in New Zealand and 93 per cent in Hong Kong, the quintessential service economy.

"We see our role as providing the professional services to introduce more trade into mainland China."

Hong Kong has had many years to establish, and re-establish, relationships on the mainland and master its regulatory environment.

So cited the wine trade as an example of how it added value to third party traders. It has reduced the duty on wine to zero and put in place a storage certification programme which ensures that wine is stored at the right temperature and humidity.

As wine flows through Hong Kong into the burgeoning Chinese market it has become the largest auctioning centre for wine in the world.

New Zealand wine exports have doubled in the past four or five years.

"And that is only the tip of the iceberg. Per capita consumption in China is still fairly low by Western standards so there are boundless opportunities for New Zealand producers to tap into this market."

- NZ Herald

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