China delegation visits the South

A quarter of a billion dollars worth of Chinese customers were hosted by Silver Ferns Farms this week, with an emphasis on food safety practices.

Customers from throughout China were flown in for a week of touring farms and processing facilities in the North and South Islands.

Silver Fern Farms chief executive Keith Cooper said China was a large market with many challenges and the 45 delegates it hosted represented $250 million worth of trade to their business.

''A lot of time was spent on farms and in our plants to give them an in-depth understanding of our food safety systems and processes which is obviously of paramount importance in China.''

Recent food safety scares and instances of ships being delayed by paperwork issues at the border has put the spotlight on New Zealand's trading relationship with China in recent months.

''I think it has given us a good lesson that China is culturally different and we have to understand that culture and ensure we respond to those cultural requirements.

You could not beat ''seeing it first hand'' which is why they brought the group over, he said.

''This is the largest-scale tour we have run for customers. It's an important way for us to build trust with our customers so they are confident in growing their trade with us,'' Mr Cooper said.

China last year became the co-operative's largest export market by volume and by value, he said.

''This is a critical market for us.''

- by Dan Hutchinson