Editorial: Too clever by half?

Last updated 05:00 03/11/2012

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OPINION: We feel annoyed, don't we, when a foreigner buys land or a business in this country.

It's not a racist thing, it's just that we'd rather fellow Kiwis owned such things for the good of this country.

Hang on, maybe that is racist.

And hypocritical too, when we reflect on how we think when Kiwis buy similar assets overseas.

And then, to show just how mixed up we are (or is it just me?), there are qualms when we read of Fonterra's latest move in China, a deal to develop two more large-scale farms there.

This completes its first hub of five farms in Hebei Province, with the aim of developing more such hubs across the country.

With the goal by 2018 of producing one billion litres of milk a year there. For the Chinese to drink. Using Chinese workers.

Images of cutting off your nose to spite your face come to mind.

Especially as the breeding stock comes from here, as does the farm expertise.

So what's Fonterra's logic?

Obviously there are short-term financial benefits.

The farms are developed by New Zealanders, and the profits from the milk will fall to Fonterra.

And they'll be an element of the size of the market, which is . . . pretty big. Like, one billion litres wouldn't be enough to give each person a litre a year.

And that if Fonterra didn't get in on this, someone else would (although surely we're best); and it just might help build relationships to get Fonterra's Kiwi-made product in there now.

You'd think longer term though there have to be dangers. Having learned our skills and having access to good cows, why wouldn't China simply set up its own farms?

And maybe even start exporting milk. At which point the Fonterra board might be saying . . . oops.

But that is a long way in the future. And overly pessimistic surely.

Shouldn't we just be proud that New Zealanders are doing this? And stop being small-minded.

So how come that niggle of doubt won't go away?

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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