Nearly half of all Chinese dairy producers will have to halt production as the country gears up to streamline the scandal-tainted industry.
The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) ordered in November 2010 that all dairy firms must apply for new production certificates by the end of March 2011 and those with weak quality guarantees will be shut down.
As of March 31, only 643 dairy companies, or about 55 percent of the total 1,176 milk enterprises, were granted licenses to continue production, said Li Yuanping, spokesman of the AQSIQ.
In addition, local authorities are required to strengthen their efforts to crack down on unlicensed production, and enhance supervision over those qualified companies to guarantee their product safety, said Li.
Of the 533 producers that failed to obtain a license, 426 face permanent closure, while 107 were told to suspend operations until they carried out improvements, he said.
China's dairy industry received a deadly blow from a melamine-tainted baby formula scandal in 2008, which undermined consumer confidence for domestic dairy brands.
Though the industry has regained much of the lost ground, product safety remains an acute concern. As recently as February, there were media reports that dairy products containing leather-hydrolyzed protein, a banned additive, were still sold in markets.
"The industrial wind-up is a needed boon," said Wang Dingmian, a dairy expert and former Executive Director of the Dairy Association of China. "Many smaller companies will be forced out of market, which is good news for bigger players."
The purchasing managers index (PMI), a barometer of manufacturing activities, reached 53.4 percent in March, rebounding from 52.2 percent in February, said the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing (CFLP).
This was the first month-on-month increase after three consecutive monthly decreases. But it still marked the 25th straight month in which the index was above the boom-and-bust line of 50 percent.
The PMI includes a package of indices to measure manufacturing sector performance. A reading above 50 percent indicates economic expansion.
The results may ease concerns that the Chinese economy is losing steam, though the longer-term trend remains to be seen, said the CFLP, in a statement.
"China's economic growth is only moderating rather than slowing," said Qu Hongbin, HSBC's chief economist in China. "More importantly, the rate at which prices are rising has also started to slow."
The input prices sub-index, a measure of how much factories pay for raw materials and other intermediary goods, eased to 68.3 percent in March from 70.1 percent in February.
But Lu Ting, an economist with the Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said the PMI data were distorted by migrant workers returning to their jobs after the Lunar New Year holiday (February 2-8) and that high inventory levels may lead to a slowdown in manufacturing.
Chemical Joint Venture
The U.S. chemicals giant The Dow Chemical Co. and China's Befar Group Co. Ltd. (Binhua) have signed a memorandum of understanding for a new 50-50 joint venture to produce perchloroethylene (PCE), a key building block material for non-ozone depleting refrigerants used in industrial, automotive, consumer and other applications.
The PCE manufacturing facility in Binzhou, Shandong Province, will have an initial target capacity of 40,000 tons per year, and is expected to begin production in 2014.
"The new partnership aligns well to both companies' strategies and allows Dow to grow our presence in China," said Carol Williams, Group Senior Vice President of The Dow Chemical Co.
Peter Sykes, President of Greater China of The Dow Chemical Co., underscored the importance of the relationship with Befar to Dow's regional capabilities in China to meet customer demand in this growing marketplace.
"We look forward to jointly supporting the rapid China market growth in a sustainable and environmentally responsible manner." he said.