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News from China
Meat from Brazil taken off shelves
23rd March 2017

 SOME of China’s largest food suppliers have pulled Brazilian beef and poultry from their shelves in the first concrete sign that a deepening scandal over Brazil’s meat processing industry is hitting business in its top export market.

 
The moves by Sun Art Retail Group, China’s biggest hypermarket chain, and the Chinese arms of global retail giants Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Metro AG come days after China temporarily suspended Brazilian meat imports.
 
Safety fears over Brazilian meat have grown since police accused inspectors in the world’s biggest exporter of beef and poultry of taking bribes to allow sales of rotten and salmonella-tainted meats.
 
A spokeswoman for Sun Art Retail, which operates 400 Chinese hypermarkets, said yesterday that the chain removed beef supplied by top Brazilian exporters BRF SA and JBS SA from its shelves on Monday. Brazilian beef accounts for less than 10 percent of Sun Art’s beef supply, she said.
 
Wal-Mart has also removed Brazilian meat products from its stores, a person familiar with the matter said. He declined to be quoted.
 
Germany’s Metro has withdrawn Brazilian chicken legs and wings from its Chinese stores, said a manager, who declined to be named. The retailer, with 84 stores in China’s mainland, does not sell Brazilian beef.
 
JD.com, one of China’s biggest online retailers, said in an e-mailed statement that it had removed all listings for imported Brazilian meat and is reviewing orders in process.
 
While Brazilian officials sought to reassure consumers that the investigation had revealed only isolated incidents of sanitary problems, the reaction by Chinese retailers suggests that the probe could have far-reaching repercussions.
 
Chinese consumers appeared largely unconcerned or unaware of the scandal in Brazil, with few people commenting on the issue on social media networks.
 
But the country has been hit by its own safety scandals in the past, making retailers sensitive to any potential risks.
 
“We removed the product already on March 20,” said Sun Art’s spokeswoman, noting that this was ahead of the Chinese government’s first official comment on the issue.
 
Brazil is the top supplier of beef to China’s mainland, accounting for about 31 percent of imports in the first half of last year.
 
Much of it is used in canteens, while branded Brazilian beef is less prominent in supermarkets than Australian beef.
 
Importers are expected to wait a few more days before seeking out alternative supplies, which will likely be more costly than Brazil’s.
 
“It’s a 45-day lead-time to get any product here. What if they lift the ban by the end of the week?” said an industry source who declined to be identified.
 
Macau has suspended imports from Brazil, the special administrative region’s civil affairs authorities said, as has the Hong Kong SAR.
 
Major Hong Kong supermarket chain PARKnSHOP said it had removed Brazilian pork, beef and chicken from shelves.
 
“To cater for the needs of customers, we will increase the supply of meat and poultry products from other countries,” it said in a statement.
 
Bans are also in place in Japan, Canada, Mexico and Switzerland.
Source: Shanghai Daily, March 23, 2017
OECD sees China growth at 6.5%
22nd March 2017

 

 
CHINA’S economic growth is set to slow to 6.5 percent this year and cool further to 6.3 percent in 2018, the OECD said, though exports are set to pick up as global demand strengthens.
 
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development also warned of China’s ballooning corporate debt in its biannual economic outlook report released yesterday.
 
“In terms of risk, we believe that internally the biggest risk is the accumulated and fast pace of growth of credit both in terms of shadow banking and the banking system,” said Alvaro Santos Pereira, director of the country studies branch of the OECD’s Economics Department. “I think it’s important to intensify efforts to tackle this issue.”
 
China’s corporate debt is about 175 percent of GDP, one of the highest in emerging-market economies, he said, with state-owned enterprises accounting for around 75 percent of that.
 
“One of our top recommendations is to remove implicit guarantees to SOEs and other government and public entities,” said Margit Molnar, head of the China desk at the OECD’s Economics Department.
 
Such guarantees have enabled SOEs and local government investment vehicles to continue accumulating debt, she said.
 
Financial risks in China are mounting because of indebted enterprises, growing non-bank activities and enormous overcapacity, the report said.
 
The OECD’s forecast for 2017 is in line with the Chinese government’s growth target of around 6.5 percent this year, versus last year’s 6.5-7 percent range.
 
The economy grew 6.7 percent in 2016, the slowest pace in 26 years.
 
Some analysts believe the more modest target will give policy-makers more room to tackle debt risks and push through painful reforms, though authorities are expected to proceed cautiously to avoid hurting growth.
 
Economic growth remains high “but is gradually and appropriately moderating as the population ages and the economy rebalances from investment to consumption,” the report said.
 
Export volumes are expected to grow 3.4 percent this year and 3.3 percent next year, up from 2.3 percent in 2016, due to increasing global demand.
 
Import volumes are set to grow 7.7 percent this year and 6 percent in 2018, down from 8.6 percent growth in 2016, as imports used to process exports fall.
 
The world’s second-largest economy needs more innovation, entrepreneurship, effective corporate governance and reform of its state-owned sector, the OECD added.
 
The report did not single out the threat of rising protectionism from the United States but noted that protectionism by some trading partners would hurt Chinese exports.
 
But it said China could mitigate this by signing free trade deals with other partners.
 
“Rising protectionism to the level that some people are talking about — or reversing some of the gains of the last 10, 15 years — is going to be extremely costly to everyone,” Pereira said.
Source: Shanghai Daily, March 22, 2017
China’s power use climbs
21st March 2017

 CHINA’S electricity consumption, an important indicator of economic activity, rose significantly in the first two months of this year, suggesting economic improvement, official data showed yesterday.

 
Power use rose 6.3 percent year on year to 935.6 billion kilowatt-hours in January and February, data with the National Energy Administration showed.
 
In the first two months, electricity use by primary industry climbed 12 percent from a year earlier. Power consumption by secondary industry gained 6.7 percent, while tertiary industry rose 7.3 percent amid economic restructuring.
 
Residential power consumption grew 3.5 percent year on year, which compared with 11.8 percent growth a year earlier, largely due to diminishing usage during the warm winter.
 
The rise in power use in secondary industries, compared with negative growth in the same period of last year, showed continued growth of China’s industrial sector, said experts.
Source: Shanghai Daily, March 21, 20017
Major cities’ house market stable
20th March 2017

 CHINA’S property market in major cities has stabilized as authorities move to curb price rises.

 
Of 70 large and medium-sized cities surveyed in February, more than half of them saw month-on-month price declines or rises under 0.5 percent for new housing, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
 
Among them, 12 saw a price drop, with new housing prices in two cities flat in February, said the bureau’s senior statistician Liu Jianwei.
 
Another 19 cities saw home price gains above 0.5 percent last month.
 
New home prices in first-tier cities such as Beijing and Shanghai rose 0.1 percent on average in February, while second-tier and third-tier cities saw slightly higher price gains of 0.3 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively.
 
“The growing trend of new housing prices in first-tier cities was restrained after restrictive purchase measures were taken,” said Yan Yuejin, a property market analyst.
 
“The house prices in second-tier cities need to be further controlled due to big February gains in some cities. Third-tier cities saw a faster price rise due to their loose house purchase policies.”
 
On a year-on-year basis, February gains of new home prices in 20 cities decelerated from January, added Liu.
 
“Sales of newly built homes in 15 major cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, slowed in February on the back of targeted local government policies,” Liu said.
 
Noticeably, in the pre-owned home market, the prices rose 0.4 percent month on month in February, maintaining the growing trend for 23 months.
 
“The rigorous strictures were mainly targeted for the new housing market, and the price change is not evident in the pre-owned home market,” said Zhang Dawei, analyst with real estate agency Centaline.
 
Since October, dozens of Chinese cities have announced measures, including purchase limits and mortgage restrictions, to prevent prices from rising out of control.
 
The latest round of restrictions came after two years of policy easing, starting with relaxation of purchase restrictions in 2014 and fueled by the pro-growth policies, including interest rate cuts.
 
Many third-tier and fourth-tier cities have excess supply in their real estate markets, while housing prices in some bigger cities with access to better education and medical services are moving swiftly upward.
 
“We will take more category-based and targeted steps to regulate the real estate market,” read a government work report delivered at the annual parliamentary session earlier this month.
 
Saturday’s survey came on the heels of new measures in major cities. Beijing is raising the minimum down payment for second-home buyers and those who have no home in Beijing but have housing loan records.
 
The latest tightening will curb some speculation, and housing prices in some areas of Beijing may fall, Zhang said.
 
In a similar vein, Guangzhou has also restricted house purchases through minimum down payments for second-home buyers.
Source: Shanghai Daily, March 20, 2017

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