Sweet times ahead for China's food industry

Updated: 2010-12-21 11:16

By Zhong Nan (China Daily)

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 Sweet times ahead for China's food industry

Robert P. Aspell, president of Cargill Investment (China) Ltd. Photo for China Daily

Editor's note: Robert P. Aspell, president of Cargill Investment (China) Ltd, talks with China Daily reporter Zhong Nan about his views on Chinese agriculture, food consumption and his company's role in China.

Q: Food consumption in China has been growing quickly in the past few years. How do you see the consumption developing over the coming years?

A: Food consumption is a reflection of economic success. Food consumption is rising. The types of foods people eat are diversifying. Foods are becoming more sophisticated and they need to be more convenient, so the whole agricultural industry has dramatically transformed in China.

Q: What do you think holds the most potential?

A: The most obvious is the modernization of livestock and the food supply chain. That is a big area and there are lots of investments going on there. Some Chinese companies are rising to become the top in the world. Processed food such as canned food, related with cooking and restaurants, has grown fast.

The demand for milk, yogurt, juice and soft drinks will provide all sorts of opportunities for food and ingredient businesses. We have seen lots of potential in this sector.

Q: What is your view of China's transformation during the process of agricultural modernization?

A: I think it is a combination of growth and demand that is linked to income and urbanization. Those two factors came together to create the sheer size of the market. So it has attracted a lot of investment.

In term of agricultural modernization, we see China's is ongoing, especially in the meat production chain. Meat is being produced increasingly through modern ways of production, away from feeding animals in the backyard to a modern feeding system.

Q: What is Cargill's role in China?

A: We try to rely on our strategies with our key stakeholders. Oil seeds and vegetable oil are very important and overriding theme is food security. China's fast-growing demand for food needs a certain percentage of products from abroad. We see our role in that; we sell our products to Chinese customers, importers and food distributors in China.

Our plan will continue to participate, work and invest, not only in processing capabilities. We want to bring our best practices, and the latest green and new technologies to China.

To minimize food disruption, we need to be able to count on a very efficient supply chain. Cargill, as a global player in agriculture and food, is very committed to bringing in the needs of China from different countries. China needs participants that are committed to the industry. This is a clear Cargill view, to take a long-term approach.

Q: What is the biggest obstacle for the development of Chinese agriculture?

A: The great challenge is keeping supply and demand in balance. I am very confident that the balance of supply and demand will be met in China in the future. Technology and education are two key things. You have to keep in focus; you have to commit and deploy to fight the challenges. It is a huge effort that needs the joint efforts of governments, farmers and State-owned and private companies.

Q: What's your comment on the future of the Chinese market?

A: We are great believers in China; our relationship with China goes back 30 years. Therefore, we believe the Chinese economy will grow quickly and continue to do very well. Per capita income and the number of middle class will continue to soar. These factors make us quite confident that we have role to play, the role to play in bringing better, safer and healthier foods to our customers.


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