China and the Netherlands have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that will see the Asian country glean dairy industry know-how from the likes of FrieslandCampina.
Under the MOU - one of 14 signed during a two-day state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping - the Netherlands pledged to share its dairy expertise with Chinese milk producers to help them increase the quality and quantity of their milk.
Speaking with DairyReporter.com, Thierry van Es, spokesman to the Dutch Minister of Agriculture and Common Agricultural Policy, said that through the MOU China hopes to remedy the quality and safety issues that have plagued its dairy industry in recent years.
“It’s more or less about sharing knowledge,” said van Es.
“The Netherlands has a lot of knowledge to share about producing milk, maintaining quality, logistics and robotics.”
"China is very interested because of the quality of milk in our country."
The MOU is, on the face of it, the latest effort by China to rebuild consumer confidence in the quality and safety of domestically-manufactured dairy products.
In China in 2008, six children died and around 300,000 were sickened after consuming melamine-tainted milk. A constant stream of dairy quality and safety issues since has furthered distrust in the sector.
As a result, demand for imported milk products, particularly infant formula, increased dramatically, and led retailers in Europe and Australasia to limit the sale of infant formula in an effort to curb “unofficial exports” to China.
By meeting European quality standards, China hopes to reverse this trend.
“What we have experienced is that stock sold out because China heard about our production quality,” said van Es. “Now they want to do it themselves.”
At his request, the Chinese president and the large trade delegation accompanying him were treated to presentations by Dutch dairy industry players including FrieslandCampina.
“They want to learn from companies like FrieslandCampina and improve the quality of their milk.”
“They need knowledge to help them achieve their goals.”
“Declaration of intention, not a trade agreement”
Speaking with DairyReporter.com, Herman van Gelderen, a Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, moved to reiterate that the dairy MOU was “a declaration of intention, not a trade agreement yet.”
But according to van Es, the MOU with China regarding dairy quality "can only lead to more business."
“We already have a close relationship with China, and this memorandum of understanding can only lead to more business."
“There is large demand for our milk products in other countries, but particularly in China.”
“Our ministerial focus this year to increase cooperation with Asian countries," he added.