The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Kiwi honey, wine face new Chinese rules

New Zealand winemakers exported $27.1 million of product to China in the past year. Photo / Duncan Brown
New Zealand winemakers exported $27.1 million of product to China in the past year. Photo / Duncan Brown

Chinese regulations that caused upheaval in New Zealand's infant formula industry two years ago are set to be extended to honey and wine exporters.

The Ministry for Primary Industries yesterday confirmed it was aware of the move, saying the Certification and Accreditation Administration of China (CNCA) would require registration of wineries and honey producers next year.

"The registration requirements will apply to all countries that export wine and honey to China, including New Zealand," an MPI spokesman said.

Local infant formula manufacturers were thrown into a state of flux in May 2014 when the registration requirement was introduced for that industry. Products could not enter China without approval, and a number of Kiwi baby milk exporters went under following the rule change.

China has also introduced registration for meat and seafood exporters in recent years.

Chemlinked.com, a website that covers Chinese regulatory changes, reported that CNCA was training officials to conduct on-site audits of bee farms, honey processing facilities and wineries.

A traceability programme for pre-packaged wine may also be introduced to combat the large amount of fake imported wine sold in China, according to the report. New Zealand exported $27.1 million of wine - out of total exports of $1.4 billion - to China in the year to June 2015, while honey worth $45.3m was shipped to that market from total exports of $285m last year.

High-value manuka honey, viewed as having health benefits, is becoming increasingly popular with Chinese consumers.

John Rawcliffe, general manager of the Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association, said it was up to the industry to have the systems and processes in place to comply with regulatory changes in China.

"They are the customer and they're setting the boundaries - we have to recognise that," Rawcliffe said. "We have a wonderful product and if we're able to clearly express and demonstrate that, it will be helpful to that [registration] process."

There will be some wineries that may well be quite heavily dependent on [the Chinese market].
Philip Gregan Chief executive New Zealand Winegrowers

New Zealand Winegrowers chief executive Philip Gregan said the industry group had been aware for some time of CNCA's registration plans.

The impact on winemakers would depend on how the regulations were structured, Gregan said.

While China only accounted for a small portion of New Zealand's total wine exports, he said it was seen as a major growth opportunity for the sector.

"There will be some wineries that may well be quite heavily dependent on [the Chinese market]."

The MPI spokesman said details of the registration requirements were not yet known and the ministry was working with the Chinese authorities.

Andrew Zhu, director of market research firm Trace Research, said the Chinese authorities wanted to have more control over food imports, not stop them.

"In the future, New Zealand companies will be better off having a more formalised brand registered in China." He said companies needed to anticipate and prepare for the changes ahead of their introduction.

- NZ Herald

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