18 Mar 2014

PM urged to defend dairy industry

8:10 am on 18 March 2014

An agricultural leader is calling on Prime Minister John Key to defend the country's dairy farmers during his trip to China this week.

Mr Key is heading to China to smooth the waters after Fonterra's botulism food safety debacle last year - which turned out to be a false alarm.

Federated Farmers' dairy wing chair Willy Leferink said he wanted Mr Key to defend the actions of those working in the dairy industry here.

"I would like the Prime Minister to tell the Chinese that we do our darndest to get things sorted, and that we're still a first-class country with a first-class system which produces very high-quality dairy products," Mr Leferink said.

The timing of the trip was good as it had allowed time for the wounds to start healing, he said.

Mr Leferink also called on Mr Key to emphasise the need for a collaborative, high-level trade partnership.

"And now come in and give final assurances that we dealt with all the issues and that we're going to be in a better space in the future so that we can reassure the Chinese authorities that the same issue wouldn't happen again and that we hopefully prevent other issues like this happening in the future," he said.

"It's really important to keep those relations going. I think it's important to stay, at a high level, in good contact with each other, so people don't hesitate to take up the phone to contact the other person, if there is some issues."

Last week Fonterra admitted four charges laid by the Ministry for Primary Industries over the botulism incident. It will be sentenced next month.