China's food industry, as a key pillar industrial sector, will likely maintain its fast growth in the next few years, an industry expert estimates.
"With great market potential, the sector is expected to grow by 10-12 percent annually," said Wang Wenzhe, president of the China Food Industry Association.
The food market is expanding as the country maintains an annual birthrate of more than 10 million children yearly, he said.
In addition, among Chinese food consumers, processed food products only account for 30 percent of the total, leaving a big market to be explored by the food-processing industry, Wang said.
He said in developed countries, processed foods typically account for 86 percent of total food consumption.
With such great market potential, the output of the food industry by the year 2010 may double from that in the year 2000, when the output was valued at 850 billion yuan (US$102.7 billion).
When talking about the industry's development trends, he predicted new products will develop to improve the industrialization of the sector and will be highlight of the industry during the next few years.
With further improvements in Chinese living standards and higher demands for food products, optimization of the industrial infrastructure, the development of new technologically-intensive food products instead of labor-intensive ones, along with greater varieties of nutritious and easy-to-cook goods, healthy and rapid development of the industry should occur, he said.
Another key issue for the industry is food safety, Wang said.
Food poisoning incidents have happened occasionally, while last year's moon cake incident - when the Nanjing Guanshengyuan Food Co used moon cake fillings made in the previous year - have caused Chinese retrospection concerning food quality.
The industry should strengthen supervision and quality controls on its raw materials - mainly agricultural goods - while promoting clean processing procedures. It also must perfect the supervision systems for food quality safety and make sure waste discharged by food production does not pollute the environment, he said.
The industry will focus on the development of corn and wheat goods, diary products, food additives and seasoning essentials in the coming years, Wang said.
The food industry has enjoyed rapid development during the past several years, with an average annual growth rate of 12 percent, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. China's food industrial output in the first seven months of this year was 686.9 billion yuan (US$82.96 billion), an increase of 18.16 percent over the same period last year.
(China Daily October 8, 2003)