Luo Cheng, the Communist Party official in charge of Fengdu County, a region near the enormous city of Chongqing aims to be the ‘Cattle Capital of China’ and at a recent forum to launch its ‘cattle economy blueprint’ local officials laid out a detailed plan to build a RMB50 billion beef business by 2020. A separate forum running on the same day in Fengdu detailed how the region would increase production of pasture and silage to make the plan a reality.
Fengdu started to build up its cattle sector in 2008 under a rural poverty alleviation scheme supported by regional and national government. The local herd started with 500 imported Australian bulls and cows - and has since expanded to 100,000 cattle slaughtered per year. Luo says the district will add 40,000 cattle per year in feedlots by 2020.
Now the emphasis is less on creating jobs and wealth for impoverished rural households and more on scaling up beef production to compete with imported beef – that’s the plan of Luo Cheng. He recently called together researchers and beef experts for two days of forums to plot the future of what he wants to be ‘China’s Beef Cattle Capital.’
Thousands of jobs
The continued influx of imported beef into China appears to have spurred action in Fengdu and now Luo wants to cash in on rising demand among consumers. “We first concentrated on increasing our stock count through small scale free range cattle farms but now we must build scale and develop large herds,” explained district government boss Luo Cheng.
A detailed plan will create thousands of jobs in ancillary industries like tanneries, bone-meal and “blood by products”. Meanwhile a network of e-commerce and logistics operations will be established. “We can put thousands to work” said Luo at the conference in Fengdu.
The blueprint aims to increase local grass output: a separate company, Fengdu Gaojiazhen Fengzeyuan, has been set up by government to test and grow soils and grass seeds locally. Finding adequate supplies of quality feed has long been a bottleneck for the Chinese beef and dairy sectors with large quantities of alfalfa and hay being imported from as far afield as Australia and the US.
Pollution has been the other challenge to a domestic beef industry and that issue in Fengdu has been taken on by another state entity, the Chongqing Municipal Environment Construction Co which is collaborating with the prestigious China Academy of Sciences to manage slurry and manure from the enlarged farms.
Fengdu and the surrounding region have traditionally focused on small scale rice, fruit and vegetable farming and the relative absence of large pasturelands on which to spread slurry means the district will have to be creative and come up with other ways to handle the slurry, explained Luo Cheng to media during the forum. Fengdu will consider launching a brand of organic fertilizer to sell nationally, he suggested.
Domestic consumer demand for beef featured in an extensive article recently in the People’s Daily, the official journal of the Communist Party. Price competitiveness and quality are key advantages of the imports, according to the article, which also pointed to Chinese consumer demand driving a large trade in China in beef from countries which are not permitted to import into China.
Fengdu’s ambitious plans are not without precedence in the region. While Chongqing and the surrounding Sichuan province are better known for humid summers and fiery hot pot cuisine the annual Beef Festival in Chongqing – China’s largest metropolis – was started last year by Hengdou Agriculture Co, which operates a beef processing plant and feed lots near the city.