Norco milk takes on China

Chris Dobney

North coast dairying cooperative Norco will soon be a household name in China, after it confirmed it will begin full-scale shipments of its full range of fresh milk varieties to the country within weeks.

Until now, Australian milk exports to the Chinese market were limited to UHT, canned and powdered products owing to the tyranny of distance, shipment times and the need to keep the fresh product chilled at all stages of transit.

Yesterday’s announcement followed the successful trial of a ‘cold chain’ delivery program, which saw fresh milk go from the cows in north coast paddocks to breakfast tables in Beijing in just seven days.

Australian Dairy Farmer magazine reported that the quarantine clearance necessary for the trial was ‘the result of 12 months of work between Peloris Global Sourcing (PGS) and Chinese officials to develop quality-assurance protocols that have now been tested and officially sanctioned by the relevant Chinese agencies’.

Norco chairman Greg McNamara said in a statement that the pipeline has the capacity to deliver more than 20 million litres of fresh milk to consumers in China within the first 12 months of operation.

Labor’s shadow minister for primary industries, Steve Whan, wasted no time in congratulating Norco and its partners, although ironically no such congratulations were forthcoming from the minister, the Nationals’ Katrina Hodgkinson.

‘We shouldn’t underestimate the importance of this major step forward. Up until now, most milk exports to China have been long-life, treated or powdered milk. The opportunity for fresh-milk exports is exciting and has great potential with the benefits flowing directly to NSW farmers,’ Mr Whan said yesterday.

‘NSW has a huge opportunity in dairy but right now the Baird Liberal government is doing very little to assist. With a little proactive action from the NSW government we could see dairy exports to China boom – potentially resulting in a 50 per cent increase in NSW milk production and very importantly better prices for farmers,’ he added.

‘We need two things – first a dairy strategy driven by the government which gives some direction and certainty to the industry. Second, the government must stop its cutbacks to biosecurity, which put at risk the clean green, product that is the key to this market.

‘For too long, ministers Hodgkinson and Stoner have sat on their hands. After more than three years in government we have only just got the very belated “draft” agriculture industry plan. That plan, to be blunt, completely fails to give exports the attention they need.

‘It’s not good enough. The opportunities for exports to China are there right now and the NSW government needs to get on board and take advantage of them.

‘Companies such as Norco and Bega are showing the way and their example could be replicated in other parts of NSW, with the potential to boost export-producing jobs and income for rural communities,’ Mr Whan said.


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