From regional New Zealand all the way to China 


Robert Spurway, Fonterra’s COO Global Operations, reflects on the value of our trade relationship with China for Regional NZ.

This week, families across China are celebrating the lunar new year. Alongside them, around 170,000 Chinese New Zealanders and their families are also celebrating the Year of the Pig. It’s great to see opportunities for other Kiwis to join in at various Lantern Festivals and community events across the country too. 

While most of the new year festivities are being held in the main urban centres, it’s regional New Zealand that’s quietly punching above its weight when it comes to the relationship with our biggest trading partner.

Photo: Robert Spurway samples a tea macchiato. A step up from an ordinary cuppa and popular in tea houses across China, tea macchiatos are made using a blend of flavoured tea with a creamy cap of whipped cream and cream cheese.

Last year New Zealand exports to China were worth more than $16.6 billion, and $3.8 billion of that was generated by Fonterra in rural and regional New Zealand. In total, around a quarter of Fonterra’s exports went to China where they were consumed by around 150 million people.

An increasing Chinese appetite for New Zealand dairy is helping drive our regional economies and now 11 percent of all dairy in China comes from Fonterra farmers. We’re not just talking about milk powder either.

Fonterra mozzarella tops more than half a billion pizzas and our cream goes into 500 million tea macchiatos every year. A little bit of New Zealand is ending up on shelves and tables across China and in return that product is helping put food on Kiwi tables.

Our China export earnings help generate income for forklift drivers in Darfield, Maungaturoto tanker operators, cheesemakers in Stirling and processors at our plant in Te Awamutu. 

The benefits of our relationship with China flow into communities as our employees and farmers support businesses, schools and other local organisations across the country.

Waikato was one of Fonterra’s biggest regions for China exports, totalling around $1.2 billion in products, like cream, cheese and milk powder. This works out to around $2,500 per person in the region.

Of our 30 New Zealand sites, Clandeboye in Canterbury was the top producer, exporting around $566 million in products to China. Southland’s Edendale came a close second exporting nearly $560 million and in Taranaki Whareroa exported $437 million.

The positive influence of Chinese consumer demand is having a positive impact throughout the year.

I’m fortunate my job has taken me to China a fair number of times and my sense of pride is as strong as ever when I see our products on shelves, in bakeries and in beverages. There’s something special about knowing that a little bit of regional and rural New Zealand has found its way into the lives of people in places like Shanghai, Beijing and Dongguan.

Rob Spurway is Fonterra’s Chief Operating Officer, Global Operations.