Serv­ing meat to Chi­nese

South Waikato News - - RURAL DELIVERY - By JAZIAL CROSS­LEY

Xibin Chen is China’s big­gest im­porter of New Zealand lamb. Last year he took more than $140 mil­lion or 30,000 tonnes of New Zealand meat to China.

His com­pany Grand Farm has been sell­ing New Zealand meat to Chi­nese con­sumers since 2000, in­clud­ing putting Kiwi beef in McDon­ald’s ham­burger pat­ties in China, to air­lines and di­rectly to con­sumers.

Grand Farm prod­ucts are sold in more than 5000 stores in China. Some of the meat he im­ports is co-branded in Chi­nese su­per­mar­kets as Pure South, Al­liance Group’s ex­port pack­aged meat brand.

It is In­ver­cargill-based Al­liance Group’s big­gest cus­tomer, mak­ing up 30 per cent of Al­liance’s to­tal sales. Most of the meat he im­ports from Al­liance, a farmer-owned co­op­er­a­tive, is sheep­meat.

Some of it is pro­cessed in China into re­tail-ready prod­ucts like pack­aged lamb rack and ke­babs as con­sumers move away from lower-value lamb cuts.

Chi­nese cus­tomers con­sider New Zealand meat to be of high qual­ity from a "small, clean, green" coun­try.

"Con­sumers love New Zealand prod­ucts and through their nice eat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence they de­velop a pas­sion for New Zealand," Chen said.

Grand Farm re­cently ran a com­pe­ti­tion sponsoring win­ners to visit New Zealand, al­low­ing them to trace the meats they bought in China back to the farm it was grown on to en­hance their un­der­stand­ing of the food pro­duc­tion and safety process.

Chen has a high pro­file in China, as pres­i­dent of the Hei­longjiang Meat As­so­ci­a­tion and vice pres­i­dent of China Meat As­so­ci­a­tion. He at­tended the of­fi­cial celebration din­ner for the Free Trade Agree­ment with New Zealand be­ing signed un­der He­len Clark’s gov­ern­ment and met prime min­is­ter John Key when he was in Bei­jing ear­lier this year.

In re­cent months, New Zealand sheep and beef meat was held up by of­fi­cials at Chi­nese ports af­ter the for­mer Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture and Forestry be­came the Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries.

"I felt the key rea­son was there was a prob­lem with pa­per work, both sides needed to spend more time re­solv­ing that," Chen said, adding that it was no longer an is­sue.

He is ex­pand­ing his op­er­a­tions in China, build­ing a cold room that can store 20,000 tonnes of meat at a time and es­tab­lish­ing a Cat­tle Re­search Cen­tre to en­hance food safety prac­tices, study stock breed­ing, in­spec­tion and disease preven­tion.

Grand Farm is the only com­pany in the Hei­longjiang prov­ince, pop­u­la­tion 38.3 mil­lion, with state ap­proval to process mut­ton and beef. It has ca­pac­ity to slaugh­ter half a mil­lion sheep and 10,000 deer a year.

His num­ber one piece of ad­vice for New Zealand com­pa­nies want­ing to sell food in China would be to use a dis­trib­u­tor or go­b­e­tween who un­der­stands the lo­cal mar­ket.

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