Maui Milk signs with new distributor after China trade show

A New Zealand sheep milk producer with 13 Waikato-based suppliers has signed with a new Chinese distributor following an international trade exhibition in China.

The Chinese market has always had an interest in sheep’s milk, says Leah Davey, general manager of Maui Milk. (image file)
Photo: RNZ / Nathan McKinnon

The China International Import Export event is normally one of the biggest shows every year, and despite Covid-19 forcing organizers to cut things down, it is still an important show.

Twenty-two New Zealand companies attended the event, including exporters of honey, wine, dairy and fruit.

Covid-19 restrictions have limited visitors to the show this year, but Maui Milk chief executive Leah Davey said there were still around 35,000 potential customers through the doors.

They were represented by their Chinese parent company Maui Food Group, and interest in New Zealand sheep’s milk was significant, Davey said.

“A new dispenser has been signed for the bag [milk power] produced up there, ”she said.

“This will be one of the many signings. The interest is there. The Chinese generally understand the value of sheep’s milk better than the rest of the world because they have always valued the milk of small ruminants. It’s easy to digest and they’ve used it for years. “

Maui Milk didn’t value the business, but the company had “big ambitions,” Davey said.

“All the shareholders have talked about becoming a $ 100 million company within five years, it’s ambitious but possible thanks to the brand part of the company for sure,” she said.

“What we do know is that our shareholders have been trading in these markets for 11 years, before we produced, and last year there was 700% growth and we don’t see that slowdown.”

Maui Milk has 13 supplier farmers, eight of which were recently recruited in August – five from new developments, the rest being cow dairy conversions. Typically, farms have 1000 dairy ewes.

Davey said spring went very well with four suppliers from last season seeing high double-digit increases in production per sheep.

This is a good situation for two reasons in his eyes: genetic really start to perform well and emphasize the importance of this investment, and farmers’ experience is increasing to improve performance.

Maui Milk will recruit more suppliers next season, but no numbers will be released until the company sees how much more milk these existing farms are producing this year.

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