The news that the Kiwi foreign minister has made moves to placate Sri Lankan politicians was followed by an indication that the Ministry for Primary Industries’ acting director-general will travel to China soon to meet counterparts there, according to a Radio New Zealand report.
As head of the government agency responsible for food safety and agricultural produce, Scott Gallacher will go to China to try to mitigate the damage from the recent Fonterra botulism scare.
Hearts and minds
However, there is no indication that Gallacher will join Fonterra's chairman and chief executive, who are also planning to visit China on a trust and confidence-building mission later this month.
Although the ministry found no trace of the botulism-causing bacterium that had earlier been indicated by tests on whey protein concentrate manufactured by Fonterra, there have been mounting calls in New Zealand for the government to send officials to China to assure consumers that dairy products exported there are safe.
Meanwhile, the New Zealand and Sri Lankan governments have agreed to work towards a dairy sector cooperation agreement following a visit to Colombo by New Zealand’s foreign affairs minister Murray McCully.
The visit followed the serious difficulties Fonterra has experienced on the island over recent weeks and the temporary closure of its Sri Lankan operations.
McCully and Fonterra chairman, John Wilson, met Sri Lanka’s economic development minister, Basil Rajapaksa, to discuss progress in resolving the difficulties and future opportunities to expand cooperation in the dairy sector.
“The Minister and I agreed that our governments will work towards a dairy sector cooperation agreement, which we hope to see signed a little later this year," McCully said following the meetings.
“This will set out the ways both governments can support the growth of Sri Lanka’s dairy sector, and thereby assist in creating a more certain environment in which Fonterra can make a broader contribution to the sector’s development.”
Mr McCully also held talks with Sri Lankan external relations minister, GL Peiris, and met the country’s president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, along with the health minister and other senior officials.
“There is still considerable work to do to create greater certainty for our dairy trade in Sri Lanka. I believe we have established with the Sri Lankan government a more positive basis for taking the relationship forward,” McCully added.