Blair and Jane Smith take a break from looking around a central city meat market in Taiwan. Supplied photo.
Southern Rural Life caught up with 2012 Ballance Farm
Environment Awards national winners Blair and Jane Smith, of
Five Forks, to discuss their recent trip to China, South
Korea and Taiwan, what they believe lies ahead for the red
meat industry, and what effects they believe Fonterra's
botulism scare has had on trading opportunities with Asia.
The couple visited Asia in late April as part of their role
as ambassadors for New Zealand agriculture and produced a
report on their experiences, titled ''Good Morning Asia'',
which was released last month.
What insights did the trip to Asia provide?
"The consumers in Asia we met with were proud to associate
themselves with New Zealand products.
''However, our products need to be targeted towards
consumer-driven specifications. Each country was markedly
different in their demands for red meat protein and dairy
products, with China's focus being on `safe' food, South
Korea's on `healthy' food and Taiwan's on traceability of
How does consumption and marketing of red meat differ in
Asia compared with New Zealand?
''Culinary preferences differ in each country. Chinese focus
on the texture of meat rather than the taste and they tend to
boil their meat in a hot-pot, Koreans have a preference for
marbled meat which they tend to cook barbecue style and
Taiwanese seemed very Westernised in their style of cooking,
with higher value cuts of meat in demand.
''In terms of marketing, social media plays a key role. Beef
and Lamb New Zealand have had great success utilising
Facebook as a marketing tool and this direct consumer
marketing will be increasingly effective in the future.''
What are the barriers which prevent the growth of exports
from New Zealand to Asia?
''While tariffs are an obvious barrier, with tariffs ranging
from 0-300% plus, there are larger underlying issues which we
need to turn into opportunities.
''It was reinforced during our meetings with importers,
distributors and retailers of New Zealand beef and lamb that
we hold a unique position as one of the few nations in the
world that has the ability to produce safe, sustainable
primary produce through efficient utilisation of resources in
an isolated, disease-free environment. However, this does not
guarantee a premier place for our produce and our positioning
in offshore markets needs to be well researched, well
communicated and driven by market demand not product
How can the industry overcome them?
''New Zealand has a very capable team of experts that work
hard on trade negotiations and we are seeing great progress
in many countries with this. While tariff reduction and
removal goes a long way to increasing the global consumer's
ability to purchase our products, this needs to be backed by
consumer communication and marketing by the New Zealand
primary industry. We are seeing this with our dairy products
and Beef and Lamb New Zealand are doing an excellent job.
''However, from what we viewed during our tour, the large
co-operative meat companies are doing this poorly. We saw
examples of New Zealand meat being sold on a `sell at the
lowest price and then run' basis and this isn't acceptable.
We saw New Zealand lamb legs stacked up in supermarket
freezers in China. While these were reasonably priced, no
Chinese people we talked to owned an oven, let alone knew how
to cook a roast leg and they thought the concept of a roast
was rather strange.''
Where does the future of New Zealand's red meat industry
''China is often touted as the specific key growth area for
our produce. However, we believe New Zealand's red meat
industry needs to be very careful demand growth and trends in
China do not overshadow other countries and that China
doesn't become a demanding schoolyard bully.
''A common concern of importers in both Korea and Taiwan was
their ability to source New Zealand red meat in competition
with China. No doubt this concern may be echoed in other
marketplaces which are important for us, as each market
demands a slightly different portion of the carcass, with
some being important for beef, others for lamb and others for
offal and byproducts.''
What impact do you believe the botulism scare will have on
the red meat industry exporting to Asia, and in particular
''The fact world-leading traceability and monitoring systems
were able to pick up this issue should be of great comfort to
our export markets.
''While China seems to be focused on making New Zealand
justify its position as a safe food producing country, it is
important to remember China is the country that allowed
rodent meat to be imported from India and sold as lamb for an
extended period recently.
''Our systems in New Zealand are world class and the fact our
dairy industry has fronted up, been able to trace these
products and put systems in place to ensure it doesn't happen
again should be earning respect, not losing it.''