Phil Latham: 'The Chinese firms we met seemed hungry for trusted foreign branded food'


My trip to China was an eye-opener. I approached the trip completely ignorant of what a modern day Chinese city would look like and I have never been to a socialist country and was not sure what to expect.


Super-fast bullet trains depart immaculate granite-clad stations servicing travellers with unbelievable efficiency at speeds in excess of 300km/hour. We visited three of the 17 Chinese cities which are bigger than London and the architecture was as imaginative and ostentatious as any major cities in the western world.


Shanghai at night was a vision to behold as dazzling light displays highlight the progress of a nation rebuilding its trading associations with the world.


The Chinese firms we met as part of the trade mission at the Food Hotel China exhibition and in the meetings coordinated by the DIT/Chinese Britain Business Council seemed hungry for trusted foreign branded food.


The increasingly wealthy middle class want food which is safe and the prices in the supermarkets suggest they are prepared to pay a premium for it.


It was important to see the supermarkets as culturally they are very different. I am not sure catching your own fish, frog, turtle or eel with a net will catch on over here.


While we are hand wringing over the location of a third runway and the routing of HS2, the Chinese are developing at breathtaking speed.


They are investing infrastructure in Europe, recently in roads from Belgrade to Budapest and in the process of creating a new physical and virtual silk road to facilitate import of European goods and export of their manufacturing through clearly defined trading models making the most of e-commerce.


It was good to see some British Dairy presence at the 85,000sq.m food show, but the opportunity deserves much more investment and it was disappointing to see no presence from Dairy UK which might have cofounded a stand to catch the eye of potential Chinese partners.


Confucius once said that a ‘man who stand on hill with mouth open will wait long time for roast duck to drop in’. I think that describes our situation rather well.


If we are to survive in a post-Brexit world it is time we looked outward and recalibrate our views on where we want to be and what our fantastic production standards offer to foreign consumers and it is time for processors to give their heads a wobble and get stuck in.

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