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News from China
China’s pork demand peaks for changing diet
6th July 2017

 CHINA’S frozen dumpling makers are finding there’s a quick route to winning new sales — increase the vegetable content, and cut down on the meat.

 
This departure from traditional pork-rich dumplings is a hit with busy, young urbanites, trying to reduce the fat in diets often heavy on fast food.
 
“They like to try to eat more healthy products once a week or fortnight. It’s a big trend for Chinese mainland consumers, especially those aged 20 to 35,” said Ellis Wang, Shanghai-based marketing manager at US food giant General Mills, which owns top dumpling brand Wanchai Ferry.
 
For pig farmers in China and abroad, it is a difficult trend to stomach. The producers and other market experts had expected the growth to continue until at least 2026.
 
Chinese hog farmers are on a building spree, constructing huge modern farms to capture a bigger share of the world’s biggest pork market, while leading producers overseas have been changing the way they raise their pigs to meet Chinese standards for imports. Some have, for example, stopped using growth hormones banned in China.
 
China still consumes a lot more meat than any other country. People here will eat about 74 million tons of pork, beef and poultry this year, around twice as much as the United States, according to US agriculture department estimates. More than half of that is pork and for foreign producers it has been a big growth market, especially for Western-style packaged meats.
 
But pork demand has hit a ceiling, well ahead of most official forecasts. Sales of pork have now fallen for the past three years, according to data from research firm Euromonitor. Last year they hit three-year lows of 40.85 million tons from 42.49 million tons in 2014, and Euromonitor predicts they will also fall slightly in 2017.
 
Chinese hog prices are down around 25 percent since January, even though official numbers suggest supply is lower compared with last year.
 
Since China began opening up to the world in the late 1970s, pork demand expanded by an average 5.7 percent every year, until 2014 as the booming economy allowed hundreds of millions of people to afford to eat meat more often. During 1949 to 1976, meat had been a rare luxury for many.
 
Now, growing concerns about obesity and heart health shape shopping habits too, fuelling sales of everything from avocados to fruit juices and sportswear.
 
“Market demand remains very weak. I think one factor behind this is people believe less meat is healthier. This is a new trend,” said Pan Chenjun, executive director of food and agriculture research at Rabobank in Hong Kong.
 
Sales of vegetable-only dumplings grew 30 percent last year, compared with around 7 percent for all frozen dumplings, Nielsen research showed.
 
“Demand for vegetable products keeps rising, giving us large room for growth,” said Zhou Wei, product manager at number two dumpling producer Synear Food.
 
Guangzhou-based Harmony Catering says health is the key to reduced servings of meat to the roughly 1 million workers eating at its 300 canteens each day.
 
Staff at the technology companies, banks and oil majors that are Harmony’s clients will consume about 10 percent less meat today than they did five years ago, but around 10 percent more green vegetables, according to Harmony vice president Li Huang. “It’s mainly because of media, the concept of health has entered popular consciousness,” he said.
 
For now, it’s mostly urban and white-collar workers paying closer attention to their diets. There’s been, for example, a sharp rise in vegetarian food stations at university campuses. But the government wants a nationwide shift in eating habits.
 
Childhood obesity in China is rocketing, and the country also faces an epidemic of heart disease, Harvard researchers warned last year. Among the problems, they blamed growing consumption of red meat and high salt intake.
 
In April, the health ministry kicked off its second 10-year healthy lifestyle campaign, urging citizens to consume less fat, salt and sugar, and aim for a ‘healthy diet, healthy weight and healthy bones’.
 
By 2030, Beijing wants to see a marked increase in nutritional awareness, a 20 percent cut in the per capita consumption of salt, and slower growth in the rate of obesity, it said in its recently published ‘Healthy China 2030’ pamphlet.
 
Some companies have been urgently changing the mix of products they sell, going for higher-margin pork meats rather than volume. Sales of traditionally less popular lamb and beef have also been increasing.
 
Li of Harmony Catering says although servings of pork are down, the firm is including more beef and lamb in meals.
 
“People usually eat lean beef or lamb, like beef brisket, while with pork it’s both fatty and lean parts, like in ‘hong shao rou’,” said Beijing-based nutritionist Chen Zhikun, referring to the widely consumed braised pork dish.
 
China’s top pork producer WH Group has been going up market, selling Western-style products in China, such as sausages and ham. A lot of this is imported from Smithfield, the largest US pork producer, which was acquired by WH in 2013.
 
Some producers say that the recent drop in pork consumption can be partly explained by sharply lower output. A prolonged period of losses during 2013 to 2015 forced farmers to cull millions of hogs, hitting supply and sending pork prices to record levels in 2016.
 
But for a growing portion of Chinese consumers, price tags on food items are less and less important. A spate of safety scandals in recent years, many related to meat, have made urban Chinese highly sensitive to food quality.
 
More than 80 percent of people in China surveyed by Nielsen last year said they were willing to pay more for foods without undesirable ingredients, much higher than the global average of 68 percent.
 
“China is in a new stage where consumption of pork and other foods is no longer a simple matter of ‘more is better’,” said Fred Gale, senior economist at the United States agriculture department.
Source: Shanghai Daily, July 6, 2017
Industry growth outstrips forecasts
4th July 2017

 DOMESTIC manufacturing activity expanded faster than expected in June despite lingering economic headwinds, a private report said yesterday.

 
The Caixin China General Manufacturing Managers’ Index returned to the positive territory at 50.4, the highest in three months, according to the survey conducted by financial information services provider Markit and sponsored by Caixin Media Co. Ltd.
 
That compared with May’s 49.6 and market expectations for 49.5 according to a Reuters poll.
 
A reading above 50 indicates expansion, while a reading below that reflects contraction.
 
New orders rose the fastest in three months.
 
Input and output prices both showed renewed increases although the inflation was cooler than the beginning of the year.
 
But relatively muted demand overall led manufacturers to reduce their inventory and trim their workforces again.
 
Optimism on the business outlook edged down to its lowest this year, the report said.
 
“The manufacturing sector recovered slightly in June, but based on the inventory trends and confidence on future output, the June reading 
was more like a temporary rebound, with an economic downtrend likely to be confirmed later,” said Zhong Zhengsheng, director of macroeconomic analysis at CEBM Group. 
The improvement in Caixin PMI echoed a pick-up of official PMI data of 51.7 in June, up from May’s 51.2.
Source: Shanghai Daily, July 4, 2017
Mainland bond market opening up
3rd July 2017

 QUALIFIED overseas investors will be able to invest in the Chinese mainland interbank bond market via the mainland-Hong Kong bond connect program from today.

 
Relevant laws, regulations, business rules, operation schemes and regulatory arrangements have already been determined, while the technical system is also in place, said a joint statement by the People’s Bank of China and Hong Kong Monetary Authority yesterday.
 
The “northbound” bond connect, which allows qualified overseas investors buy bonds in the mainland interbank bond market either in yuan or other currencies, will operate on a trial basis.
 
The PBOC and HKMA have agreed on issues involving cross-border regulatory cooperation and signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in strengthening supervision.
 
Under the agreements, both sides will establish mechanisms for information exchange and assistance in accordance with local laws and their own statutory authority, to combat violations in cross-border trades and ensure effective operation of the program.
 
Institutions of both sides should organize market players to conduct the trades in an orderly manner, helping investors in the “northbound” trades have a comprehensive understanding of regulations and business schemes in the Chinese mainland bond market, according to the statement.
 
China approved a bond connect program between the mainland and Hong Kong in mid-May.
 
It allows investors from both sides to trade bonds on each other’s interbank markets.
 
Overseas investors should register the bonds they purchase under qualified overseas trusteeship bodies, which have accounts in mainland counterparts, under rules issued by the PBOC.
 
Those qualified investors include foreign central banks, sovereign wealth funds, international financial organizations, Qualified Foreign Institutional Investors, RMB Qualified Foreign Institutional Investors, and financial agencies including commercial banks, insurance companies, securities brokerage houses, and fund management companies.
 
They can invest in bonds that are tradable on the mainland interbank bond market,.
 
This includes treasury bonds, local-government bonds, policy bank bonds, commercial bank bonds, corporate bonds, and asset-backed securities, among others, the PBOC said.
 
The PBOC and other regulatory bodies have the right to access the data of overseas investors investing in the mainland interbank bond market, according to the rules.
Source: Shanghai Daily, July 3, 2017
Merger OK latest progress in SOE reforms
30th June 2017

 CHINA’S state-owned asset regulator yesterday approved the merger of China National Machinery Industry Corp and China High-Tech Group Corp, a step to deepen the country’s reforms of state-owned enterprises.

 
Textile conglomerate China High-Tech has become a wholly owned subsidiary of Sinomach, as China National Machinery is also known, and will no longer be directly supervised by the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, the regulator said in a statement.
 
Sinomach is China’s largest machinery group, covering full-scale services and production related to industrial equipment manufacturing. It ranked 293rd in the Fortune 500 in 2016, with 2015 profit totaling 4.8 billion yuan (US$708 million) on revenue of 222.7 billion yuan.
 
It has not released its 2016 annual report.
 
China High-Tech’s main business is textile equipment making. It reaped 43.4 billion yuan in sales and 100 million yuan in profit last year.
 
The merger echoes China’s calls for enhanced industrial concentration amid the SOE reforms, especially in thermal power, heavy machinery and steel industries.
 
China High-Tech’s revenues for several years have been relatively small compared with other centrally administered SOEs, said Li Jin, chief researcher at the China Enterprises Research Institute. China’s textile manufacturing output will shrink as the country upgrades its industrial sector, he said.
 
The industry’s output grew 5.5 percent last year, below national gross industrial output growth of 6 percent, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
 
Although China High-Tech’s textile machinery business may be softening, its other businesses such automobiles and heavy machinery could synergize with Sinomach — “a measure to help upgrade China’s manufacturing structure and technologies,” Li said.
 
The merger brings down the number of China’s central SOEs to 101.
 
SASAC Vice Chairman Zhang Xiwu said at the end of last year that the number of central SOEs would be cut to under 100 this year.
 
In March, China National Nuclear Corp and China Nuclear Engineering & Construction Corp announced their merger plans to forge a nuclear giant.
Source: Shanghai Daily, June 30, 2017

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