Chinese dairy industry losing out over safety worries

09:21, January 12, 2011      

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The Chinese dairy industry is suffering as a result of a series of product quality scandals giving a bigger share of the market to imported milk powder products, an official from the Ministry of Agriculture said.

China National Radio Tuesday quoted Ma Ying, vice director of the ministry's dairy management office, as saying that the country imported 370,600 tons of milk powder in the first 11 months of 2010.

Ma said domestic brand milk powder had 60 percent of market share before the melamine scandal in 2008, in which the chemical was used to give an appearance of higher protein content. Now, domestic brands and imported brands occupy the same market share.

The industry was hit last year after parents complained that their children suffered from premature puberty after consuming milk powder products by Synutra International, despite health authorities saying there was no connection between the symptoms and the milk powder.

Ma said 340,000 jobs would be affected by importing more than 100,000 tons of milk powder.

A mother surnamed Shen with a one-year-old boy in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, told the Global Times that she buys products from US brand Wyeth from Hong Kong. The price of Wyeth milk powder is 200 yuan ($30) for every 900 grams, twice the price of domestic brands. "I would rather pay more to ensure the safety of my son," she said.

Wang Dingmian, former executive director of the Dairy Association of China, told the Global Times that the nutritional value and quality of most local brands are the same as those of foreign brands.

Wang said foreign brands raised their prices three times in 2010, giving imported milk powder products an average profit of 80 percent.

By Yang Ruoyu, Global Times
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