Dairy exports may already be stuck on Chinese wharves as a result of a new import requirement that products be tested for 1080 contamination, says an industry group.
China's Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (Aqsiq) introduced the new testing requirement following Tuesday's news of an anonymous threat, received by Fonterra and Federated Farmers last November, to contaminate infant formula with the poison.
According to a translation of Aqsiq's statement provided to the Business Herald, every batch of New Zealand dairy products entering China will require a "1080-free" certificate.
It was unclear last night for how long the tests would be required and whether all milk powder, or only infant formula, would have to be tested.
New Zealand Infant Formula Exporters Association chairman Michael Barnett said he had spoken with one exporter whose product had arrived in China and now required additional testing.
"The Chinese are saying they are going to random sample [product for 1080]. They don't have a test for it yet so goods that are sitting on the wharf at the moment are going to be sitting on the wharf for a while," Barnett said.
New Zealand meat exports ended up stuck on Chinese wharves in 2013 as a result of confusion over import documentation.
Gregg Wycherley, managing director of Auckland-based infant formula firm Fresco Nutrition, said the extra testing would be expensive for exporters.
The Ministry for Primary Industries was unable to provide comment on the new Aqsiq requirement last night, but said an update would be provided at 10am this morning.
Meanwhile, Barnett said he knew of two local companies whose orders from Chinese distributors had been reduced or put on hold as a result of the 1080 threat.
"[Distributors] are waiting to see what happens in the media over there," he said.
However, the Chinese mainstream and social media response to the 1080 threat has been muted so far.
Jane Li, manager of the New Zealand Milk Bar chain of specialised dairy stores in China, said Mandarin news articles about the threat had been factual and downplayed the risk to consumers.
"The Chinese Government certainly has absolutely no interest in hyping this up because it is only going to cause unnecessary worry among the consumers," she said.
Wycherley said that if the 1080 threat did start gaining traction in social media it would likely be shut down quickly by the Chinese Government. "You can be sure that Chinese social media is monitored, filtered and censored in real time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
New Zealand's annual infant formula exports are worth $389 million, according to ASB.