Only five Kiwi formula companies can export to China

Only five of New Zealand's 13 infant formula manufacturers have been approved to export product into China under new regulations that come into force today.

The new rules follow an audit of local baby milk manufacturing facilities that took place in March. Infant formula companies selling product in China must meet strict new requirements and become registered with the Chinese Government from today.

The Ministry for Primary Industries has not released the names of any manufacturers, but the 13 include Fonterra, Westland Milk Products and Synlait, as well as Auckland-based exporters New Image, GMP Pharmaceuticals, Sutton Group and Danone-owned Nutricia.

The Government has said the 13 manufacturers are responsible for around 90 per cent of the roughly $200 million worth of infant formula New Zealand exports to China annually.

A Fonterra spokesman said the dairy giant was one of the five companies that had achieved registration.

The ministry's deputy director-general for China Relations, Roger Smith, told the Herald this week that companies that were not registered by May 1 (today) would be unable to export product manufactured after that date.

Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy said MPI was working with manufacturers to ensure a new overseas market access requirement directive, issued last night, was complied with.

"This sets out the requirements needed to produce infant formula for export to China from 1 May," Guy said.

Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye said China had indicated that other manufacturers could become registered after 1 May if they met the requirements verified by MPI.

"There is a team of people at MPI who will be assisting the remaining manufacturers to be registered as soon as possible."

Kaye said last week that around 50 infant formula companies that do not operate factories but instead have their products made by contract manufacturers would find it more difficult to comply with the new regulations.

Today, she said some brand owners who did not have a "close relationship"with their manufacturer would struggle to meet the new rules.

"MPI has been working with industry and Chinese agencies to give brand owners greater clarity on what closer association will mean and when this will apply," Kaye said.

- By Christopher Adams of the New Zealand Herald

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