Michael Sondergaard, supply chain director at pork products company Tulip, owned by Danish Crown, described the opportunities in China and advised how best to make the most of them, at this year’s conference in Warwickshire, England.
Sondergaard said China has the world’s fastest-growing economy and is seeing not only a growth in population, but a massive migration of people to urban areas. This means a growing demand for food, specifically meat, as the burgeoning middle classes develop Western tastes. The presentation showed that from 2030, two-thirds of the world’s population classed as ‘middle class’ will be from Asia. He added that China’s per capita meat consumption rose 21% between 1998 and 2011, as opposed to the EU’s which fell by 4%.
Sondergaard explained that China can’t produce enough meat to feed itself and that its self-sufficiency is dropping, which is good news for foreign meat companies.
The talk outlined some of the most important factors to take into account with China. Tulip’s speaker said that the fifth quarter has a higher value than many of the cuts that the West holds in high regard. For example, the feet are worth more than the loin, shoulder or the belly. Ears too, he said, are of great value, and it is important to take good care of these products and present them well for the Chinese market.
Sondergaard also talked of the importance of understanding China’s culture. He said: "You need to prove you respect their way of living, then you can build up their trust, it takes a long time."
He added that quality is very important, as well as food safety. Exporters must also commit long-term when dealing with China, he explained, while emphasising the Chinese preference for fresh meat over frozen, which must be taken into account.
Finally, the talk dealt with the issue of government relations and import regulations. He said it was vital to have representatives within China to maintain positive relations.