Some one billion condoms exported by China every year reach foreign consumers without Chinese labels and only the product origin.
A condom only costs 0.02 to 0.03 euros when it leaves the factory in China, but its price soars to at least 0.5 euros or even 3-5 euros, after being labeled with different American and European brands.
"Few people in American and European countries notice that the condoms labeled with their familiar brands in neighborhood stores are made in China," complained Jiang Youpan, chief engineer of Guilin Rubber Factory.
The factory is China's largest condom maker and a product supplier for world-famous condom brands and international organizations such as the United Nations Population Fund for AIDS prevention programs, as its products have won market admission in America, South Africa and Europe.
"Not even our fellow Chinese people recognize domestic condom brands. Many people would rather choose expensive foreign brands in supermarkets," said Jiang.
Jiang said China, boasting the world's largest population, started to promote the use of condom as a way of controlling demographic growth and sexually transmitted disease in the early 1970s.
The modern contraceptive industry, however, has only come alive in recent years. But so far there has not been an established domestic brand.
With an output of 720 million condoms last year, the Guilin factory gained a meager annual profit of 1.25 million U.S. dollars, compared to profits of 12.5 million U.S. dollars reported by an international-brand condom maker for its sale of 100 million condoms in China in 2005.
Nearly half of the factory's annual output or 350 million condoms are set aside for export, which makes up for one third of China's annual condom export. About 20 million condoms were shipped directly to foreign condom makers' packaging factories, after arriving at export destinations.
"Although the quality and the production capacity are recognized by industry insiders worldwide, the factory lacks a sound brand image to represent itself in the consumer market," said Jiang.
China's seven authorized condom makers posted an annual output of some 2 billion, about one sixth of the world's total sales of about 13 billion condoms a year, according to statistics from China's family planning commission.
"With an increasing awareness of safe sex in China, Chinese condom makers should shift its role from an international cheap material supplier to a brand maker," Jiang said.
The factory has set a short-term objective of boosting its annual sales to 1.2 billion brand condoms in the year 2010.