Large-scale Chinese food companies will set the direction for the development of China's food industry in the next few years, an international exhibition in Beijing shows, according to a report from the Xinhua News Agency.
Fruit juice and drinks comprised the biggest group of exhibits at the China International Exhibition of Extensive Processing of Agricultural Produce and Food Industry that opened in Beijing on Saturday.
"It's a rising industry", said He Hu, general manager of the Yantai Fruit Village Green Biology. He said that the fruit juice industry in China originated in the 1990s and had yet to catch up with the market penetration of many other countries.
His company's fruit juice is a hot seller among trendy restaurants because, according to the story, it tastes similar and is as nutritious as foreign products. "The Chinese market is huge," he said.
According to the State Development Planning Commission, one of the sponsors of the food show, the food industry has entered a new development stage with the supply of farm produce beginning to surpass demand in recent years. China has become the world's largest producer of grains, fruit, edible oil crops, meat, beans, eggs and aquatic products. However, only 20 per cent of the total output is processed into different forms of food before reaching the market.
"We are going to expand the processing of agricultural produce into a cornerstone industry," said Zhou Zihua, a local planning official in southwest China's Hainan province. The island province has developed the most popular coconut fruit brand in the country.
Many exhibits at the food show are so extensively processed that people can hardly tell what they are made from. The food science section of the show displays building tiles and food containers made from rice chaff. Also on display is a powdered tea that can be made with cold water like instant coffee.
The report continues that as the world's first growers of rice and tea, Chinese people are significantly changing the way these traditional products are consumed.
"We are building a production line extending from the paddy fields to the dining table in every household," said Li Hua, a female industrial planner from the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
She said restructuring in the region's food industry had accelerated since China entered the World Trade Organisation last year. Local dairy companies have set up trusts with dairy farms run by individual farmers. The Mengniu Group, a dairy company established two years ago, increased sales to over 800 million yuan ($100 million) every year through this new style of operation.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, another exhibition sponsor, nine specialised zones for the farm produce processing industry will emerge around the country in the next three years.
As one of the largest production bases for rice in China, Hunan province in central China has begun to extract food fibre from rice chaff, a waste product that used to be burned for fuel. The new food can be eaten with milk.