Shrimp farmer’s rags-to-riches story representative of a growing industry
One of the country’s biggest prawn exporters, Guolian Aquatic in Zhanjiang, Guangdong province, aims to be a key player in the maritime industry in China, according to the company.
“We maintain strict food safety standards and will develop new products and a pelagic deep-sea fishery,” said Li Zhong, chairman of Guolian Aquatic.
Li founded Guolian Aquatic in 2001 and publicly listed it in 2010.
“It’s a legendary story for a shrimp farmer to become the chairman of a listed company that has earned $100 million in foreign currency through exports in the past seven years,” said a local official.
Over the past decade, he has invested 10 million yuan ($1.63 million) to research and develop frozen seafood products.
He said the company now intends to venture into the field of marine biological healthcare to further increase revenue.
The key to success for the exportoriented enterprise is “to create a global reputation for food safety”, according to the company.
In June 2007, the US Food and Drug Administration announced new standards that practically halted the import of five aquatic products from China — catfish, basa fish, shrimp, dace and eel. Guolian Aquatic was the first Chinese enterprise to pass the standards.
In 2009, Guolian also became the first aquatic company on the Chinese mainland permitted to supply Hong Kong with fresh prawns.
Now, the company accounts for 30 percent to 40 percent of the prawn market in Hong Kong, Li said.
“We have been devoted to ensuring the food safety of our products. It’s necessary to strengthen the supervision and inspection in factories,” Li said.
Li said the central government must be aware of the importance of food safety supervision in the upstream parts of the industry.
“Shrimp farmers still see maximizing profit as their top priority. Supervision sites should be set up in villages to ensure no misuse of chemicals will pollute the aquatic products at the source,” he said.
Transforming from a mere food processor and exporter into an international brand, Guolian has made great strides in the maritime sector through a well- developed marketing network. To expand influence, Guolian purchased the SSC company in the United States in February 2012.
Li said he often travels to Southeast Asian countries, such as Malaysia and Vietnam, to look for more business opportunities.
“There is little space for the expansion of coastal shrimp farming. We need to sail further to explore opportunities to construct deep-sea fisheries,” Li said.
In line with the citywide strategy for the fishing industry, Li aims to realize this expansion by 2020.
Liu Xiaohua, Party chief of Zhanjiang, has spoken highly of the contributions made by private entrepreneurs to the city’s development.
“The output value of private corporations accounts for about half of the city’s total,” Liu said.
“We will guide the private companies to become high-end industries and transform family-run operations into modern enterprises.”
Zhuang Xiaodong, deputy mayor of Zhanjiang and official in charge of the city’s fishing industry, said the industry should make three transformations— from coastal fishing to deep-sea pelagic fishing; from farming in net cages to farming in the deep sea; from labor intensive to technology intensive.
Li also intends to build a market on trading futures of aquatic products based on the South China International Aquatic Trade Center, which will start operation on Sept 22.
“I’m bringing more social investments into the aquatic industry through the futures market, where prices can be better regulated,” Li said.
Safety inspection is the key to the success of the company.
Li Zhong, chairman of Guolian Aquatic