China's Yashili New Zealand - a joint venture between Yashili International Holdings and Mengniu Dairy Co - officially opened its $220 million infant formula manufacturing plant in Pokeno today after a three-year construction period.

Yashili NZ - which was founded in July 2012 - said its state of the art plant, which covers 30,000 square metres and which will employ 85 staff, will have an annual production capacity of around 52,000 tonnes of formula. Shipments to China are expected to begin in early 2016.

The company said in a statement the plant's location was optimal for logistics and transportation of product. Pokeno is strategically located on the main highway within the "golden triangle" formed by Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga, the statement said.

The opening ceremony at Pokeno was attended by Prime Minister John Key, China's Ambassador to New Zealand Wang Lutong, the Consul-General of China in Auckland Niu Qingbao, chief executive of China Mengniu Dairy Co and chairman of Yashili International Ms Sun Yiping, the president of Yashili International Holdings Lu Minfang, and representatives from local iwi and the community.

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China's infant formula market is expected to grow to NZ$32 billion by 2017, according to Euromonitor data, and the establishment of Yashili New Zealand would mean a new chapter of Chinese offshore infrastructure development, Ms Sun said in a statement.

"With ever-increasing levels of urbanisation, and an increase in consumer demand for dairy products, China is the fastest growing dairy market in the world," she said.
The production plant was designed to operate under strict quality controls with testing being conducted by AsureQuality.

The plant was designed and constructed with the help of New Zealand-based companies Babbage Consultants, EBERT Construction, Powder Projects Ltd and GEA Process.

The plant's temperature and humidity will be controlled around the clock, guaranteeing stable production and ensuring reliable product quality. The quality is reinforced by the clean, green reputation of New Zealand and its dairy industry, giving added consumer confidence.

"New Zealand was chosen because the air and water is among the purest on earth and the dairy industry is world-leading," she said.

Yashili International has bought milk powder from New Zealand for more than 10 years and has used New Zealand milk powder exclusively in its infant milk formula since August 2010.