A group of New Zealand primary sector firms has opened a joint marketing office in Shanghai, completing a three-year gestation to make life easier in breaking into the world's second biggest economy.
Primary Collaboration New Zealand officially opened its office in one of China's major cities yesterday in what chairman Andy Borland hopes will give local firms a foothold in what's seen as a complex market.
"We're looking for 'how can we get closer to the customer'?" Borland told BusinessDesk. "We all suffer from a lack of connectivity."
The initiative was born out of a 'boot camp' at Stanford University three years ago where primary sector chief executives, New Zealand Trade & Enterprise boss Peter Chrisp, and former Agriculture Minister David Carter tried to find ways to come up with ways to double the sector's exports.
PCNZ's members include fishing group Sealord, meat processor Silver Fern Farms, dairy firm Synlait Milk, vintner Villa Maria Estate, seafood company Kono and horticulture collaboration Pacific Pace.
Borland said the entity will operate as a shared point of contact for distributors and provide research on the ground in China, reducing the cost pressures required by having an office on the ground.
In the past when there's been an issue in China, the member firms have had to rely on government agencies dealing with their distributors to let them know of their situation.
"We're now going to have people on the ground," Borland said.
The structure will allow new members to join the collaboration, but also let the founding partners exit if they choose to, Borland said.
Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce oversaw the opening ceremony, describing the initiative as a "testament to New Zealand companies' ability to think laterally to meet the size and scale of opportunity to do business in China."
New Zealand has been a major beneficiary of an increasingly wealthy middle class in China, which has developed an appetite for high protein foods, particularly dairy, a major export for the South Pacific nation.
Since the nations signed a free trade agreement in 2008, New Zealand's exports to the world's most populous nation have soared, and were at $8.92 billion in the year ended Feb. 28.
(Paul McBeth is on an exchange at the Shanghai Daily News with support from Asia New Zealand Foundation)