New Zealand's biggest seafood exporter Sanford has been having issues getting salmon exports to China cleared through Chinese ports, as suspicions grow that China is turning up the heat on this country because of the Huawei saga.

Sanford is not attributing its recent administrative issues getting shipments cleared to the deteriorating New Zealand-China relationship, but chief customer officer Andre Gargiulo said no reason has been given for the issues which have impacted several shipments of fresh salmon since the end of last month.

China is New Zealand's biggest export seafood market, last year returning $500m.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been approached for comment.


Meanwhile dairy exporter Fonterra, New Zealand's largest company, said it had no cause for concern in China.

A spokesman said New Zealand dairy products had been in China for decades and China was a key market.

"We enjoy a long-standing and constructive relationship with China and our many customers there. While of course we always keep a close watching brief on international trade developments, we have no cause for concern in China and aren't experiencing any conditions in our export relationship which are out of the ordinary."

The Dairy Industry Companies Association which represents dairy exporters has been approached for comment.

New Zealand exports to China last year were valued at $15.3 billion - of which dairy products were the biggest earner at more than $4 billion.

China is the biggest export market for many New Zealand primary products, including dairy, seafood and kiwifruit.

The Government decision to exclude Chinese telecommunications company Huawei from Spark's 5G network tender process was interpreted in Beijing as a ban, Beijing-based Kiwi businessman David Mahon has said.

Beijing had now qualified it as a "concern" but the messaging from the New Zealand Government has not been clear enough, Mahon said.


ExportNZ executive director Catherine Beard said she had not received any complaints from any exporters about being held up at Chinese ports.

A spokesman for kiwifruit marketer Zespri, which last year exported more than $500m of fruit to China, its biggest market, said it was "business as usual".

Meat Industry Association chief executive Tim Ritchie said he was not aware of any issues with exports to China, which is New Zealand's biggest sheepmeat market, taking 45 per cent of all the country's sheepmeat exports.

China is New Zealand's second biggest market for beef exports after the US, last year returning $2.1 billion.

A spokesman for the forestry industry, which last year earned 48 per of its export income from China with $3b, said it was not aware of any issues.

But with New Zealand and China officials negotiating a solution to the use of log fumigant methyl bromide "a deterioration in the relationship with China would certainly put extra pressure on negotiations".


Use of methyl bromide by New Zealand is nearing expiration but it is the only fumigant approved by China.

Yesterday Foreign Minister Winston Peters - who was answering questions on behalf of the Prime Minister in the House - rejected claims by National that Kiwi exporters were being delayed at Chinese ports.

Peters slammed National's Paula Bennett for not providing evidence to back up the claim.

National has since been unable to provide evidence as to which businesses have reported issues at the Chinese border or ports.

NZTE chief executive Peter Chrisp said he had talked to many companies in the past week or two about trade with China.

"We have been contacted by companies that have advised us there's dilemmas. Some have got dilemmas, some haven't - for me, not enough to draw conclusion about a pattern at this point in time."


NZTE chairman and former Fonterra chief executive Andrew Ferrier said in his experience with China "you are always going to have some friction at the border".

"We just don't have enough evidence to make a prediction...everyone is speculating on it but we don't have enough evidence from our customers," Ferrier said.

On Tuesday the Herald reported Prime Minister Jacinda Adern was scheduled to visit China early this year but the invitation has been put on hold.

The 2019 China-New Zealand Year of Tourism was also meant to be launched at Wellington's Te Papa museum next week but that has been postponed by China.