More than 50 Chinese companies scoping investment opportunities in New Zealand's agricultural sector have descended on Auckland for a conference being held today.
The 55-member delegation of small and medium-sized companies attending Bank of China's inaugural China-New Zealand Agribusiness Investment and Trade Conference is seeking to "match-make" with 120 Kiwi firms.
The local firms come from a range of sectors including farming, fishing, brewing, health supplements and agricultural technology.
In Auckland for the event, the Chinese banking giant's vice president, Gao Yingxin, said New Zealand agribusinesses led the world in areas such as dairy and horticulture and badly needed to increase market share in emerging economies.
"China has a huge market capacity [for] farm products and needs to import a large number of high-quality and healthy agricultural products from New Zealand," he said.
Gao said the Chinese Government, meanwhile, wanted to modernise the country's agricultural sector with a view to making domestic firms more competitive globally.
"Therefore, the cooperation of the two countries in agriculture boasts great prospect and potential, capable of breathing new life to their economic and trade exchanges," he said.
Wang Jian, general manager of Bank of China's SME Services Department, compared the match-making at the event to "romantic dating".
"It's like the first step in a love affair," Wang said through a translator.
"The only difference being that for business match-making, one business can date together with six or seven other businesses while person-to-person relationships, at least in China, are one-to-one."
Bank of China held 11 similar events around the world last year, including in New York, Manchester, Paris and Kuala Lumpur.
The Beijing-based lender, which opened a New Zealand subsidiary in 2014, aims to gain business through facilitating any trade and investment that results from the conferences.
Wang said China's 50 to 60 million small and medium-sized enterprises were the engine room of the country's economy, accounting for more than 90 per cent of employment, and forging international links would bolster their strength.
"If their vitality is fully released it will create a very big driving force in the economy," he said. "That is why we are facilitating the co-operation between the two sides."
Speaking to the conference, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said collaboration and co-investment between New Zealand and China was taking place across a wide range industries.
"The areas in which we are seeing the strongest growth are in dairy, agriculture and the food and beverage sectors," Guy said.