The Chinese, who have no history of consuming milk-based products, have improbably become one of the biggest customers for New Zealand dairy goods, a Wellington-based newspaper, the Dominion, reported Friday.
In the past decade, sales to China, including Hong Kong, have risen by 400 percent to well over 120 million US dollars, putting it among the Mew Zealand Dairy Board's five biggest customers, behind traditional dairy consuming markets such as Britain and the United States, the newspaper said.
"Better still, the prospects seem even brighter. If the board succeeds in its bid to buy a 25 percent stake in Bonlac, the Australian dairy food company, its share of the Chinese market will get even bigger. Bonlac is already a big supplier to China and, under the proposed shareholding link, the Dairy Board would absorb Bonlac's Chinese business," it said.
The Dominion quoted board spokesman Neville Martin as saying that prospects for further substantial growth in China are " excellent."
"Chinese GDP is growing at between 7 and 8 percent. Their food market is growing at 12 percent but their consumption of dairy goods is rising even faster at 15 percent a year," Martin was quoted as saying.
According to the board, China imports 200,000 tons of dairy products a year. Of this, New Zealand provides a third. Milk powder accounts for a great part of New Zealand's dairy exports to China, which uses it for making liquid milk and fermented milk products drinks such as yoghurt-based drinks.
Chinese consumption of cheese, which was never part of the Chinese diet, is growing strongly, Martin said.
"A significant reason for optimism about the future in China is the decision of the authorities to begin a program of promoting milk in schools," the spokesman said, adding it seems highly significant "given the number of children in China."
"Over time it should give consumption a big boost," he said.