China’s biggest food company looks to Australia for milk product supply


Australia’s dairy industry is set for a boost with a symposium bringing together for the first time representatives from China’s biggest food company – the state-owned COFCO corporation, with leading Monash University researchers, and dairy industry partners, on Thursday 20 July.

The delegation from COFCO’s Nutrition and Health Research Institute (NHRI) is visiting Monash University to meet with Australian research partners and industry representatives for the inaugural Australia-China Joint Research Centre (ACJRC) Symposium in Dairy Manufacturing.  The ACJRC, an initiative supported by the Australian Government Department of Industry, Innovation, and Science, is a virtual centre that links researchers in the field of dairy manufacturing at Monash University and Soochow University in China.

By showcasing the capabilities of the Chinese and Australian research partners, the symposium will further collaboration between the two countries, and provide real potential for the development of the Australian dairy industry.

Australia currently produces 6 per cent of the world’s dairy products, sitting fourth in the world behind New Zealand, USA and the EU.

Director of the ACJRC in Future Dairy Manufacturing and Monash University Professor in Chemical Engineering, Cordelia Selomulya, said it made sense for Australian companies to establish themselves in the higher value Chinese export market and the Centre would enable Australian food companies focused on China to fast track their export opportunities.

“There is increasing competitive pressure on the Australian dairy industry with the USA and EU looking to expand into the Asia-Pacific region. Whilst Australia cannot compete on volume, our industry should focus on adding value by creating premium products,” Professor Selomulya said.

Monash University is leading the research into membrane technology and manufacture, of which the dairy industry is one of the biggest users. Membranes are being used in the production of probiotics, protein enriched products, and infant formula.

“The Australian dairy industry is consistently faced with challenging economic and seasonal conditions and with the middle class population across Asia expected to grow to more than three billion people by 2030, there are real opportunities for the industry,” Professor Selomulya said.

Director of COFCO NHRI, Dr Xiaoming Hao, said he expected to learn the latest dairy research outcomes in Australia at the symposium.

“I also hope the Research and Development collaborations could also eventually lead to more industrial or commercial collaboration, to help the Australian premium food product to enter the Chinese market.”

He said Australia was an important dairy source for China with an increase in Australian imports in fresh milk, yoghurt, why powder, cream, cheese and milk powder.

“The Foreign Trade Agreement signed in 2015 is good news for our dairy collaboration. However, the new regulations in China, especially on infant formula, could be a challenge for Australian dairy companies. COFCO NHRI is very happy to work together with our Australian partners on dairy innovation, and to face the opportunity & challenge together,” Dr Hao said.

The partners involved include Soochow University, COFCO NHR and Mengniu Dairy in China, along with Bega Cheese, Devondale Murray Goulburn, Fonterra, the Food Innovation Centre at Monash University, the University of Queensland and the Gardiner Foundation in Australia.

Background information

Earlier this year, Monash University struck an historic agreement with the Nutrition and Health Research Institute (NHRI), part of China’s biggest food company, the state-owned COFCO Corporation. The Chinese deal is the first agreement signed by COFCO and an Australian organisation that sees Monash University’s new multi-million dollar Food Innovation Centre enter into a strategic partnership with COFCO NHRI, as part of its overall food and agricultural innovation strategy.