Shaoshan Sanwang Limited lndustry Company has shipped the pork to China’s smaller western neighbour via rail and road, according to the local office of General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection & Quarantine (AQSIQ) in the firm’s home base of Shaoshan, in central China.
The shipment is being attributed by AQSIQ to the One Belt One Road, China’s blueprint to increase its exports through more infrastructure. In a statement AQSIQ’s officials in Shaoshan said their bureau has “been like a nanny” for local firms seeking to export. “We vigorously collected information on Tajikistan’s import regulations and needs… then we checked that companies had quality and conditions to the right level.”
Established in 1992, Shaoshan Sanwang lndustry Co has made much in its domestic marketing campaigns of being located in the hometown of Communist Party founder Mao Zedong – his favourite dish of fatty pork has become a national speciality. The firm also breeds and slaughters poultry.
Sanwang has specialised in traditional dried, cured meat snacks for the domestic market but, in recent years, has chased growing demand for packaged, low-temperature and heat-treated pork products. With an annual slaughtering capacity of two million pigs, Sanwang claims to have capacity for 40,000 tons of cured and chilled meat per year.
While the firm’s top sellers in the heat-treated range include cooked spicy sausage in the Hunan style, Sanwang has also been producing “western style” products, including low-temperature packaged pork.
Exports, meanwhile, appear to be a new priority – and a tool to drive domestic sales. While the firm claims to export to Hong Kong, Macao, Malaysia and Russia, its ability to export to advanced consumer markets like Hong Kong is used prominently in Sanwang marketing in the domestic market. Written on packaging of pork sausages for the domestic market is the claim: “We were the first company with exports rights to Hong Kong outside Guangdong province [the region bordering Hong Kong].”
In late 2015, the company started to export to Hong Kong after securing registration with the Hong Kong (HK) Food and Environmental Hygiene Department – something it touts as proof it has reached a “world-class level in producing chilled pork”.
Clearly well-connected, Sanwang’s chairman/GM Wang Ying Mao recently showed deputy minister for finance Shi Yao Bin around the company’s plants. Sanwang will expand into the restaurant business while also increasing exports, Wang told reporters at the opening of a ‘Red Food & Drink’ restaurant (red in this instance refers to the city’s communist heritage) operated by the firm in Shaoshan. The company’s products are “safe and healthy” he stressed.
For now, Sanwang’s exports are centred on what has traditionally been Russia’s sphere of influence. China is the top source of Tajikistan’s imports – by a long shot. But the country was a member of the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Community (EAEC) and is seeking to join the Eurasian Economic Union, which replaced that body as an EU-style bloc, with tariff-free movement of goods. However, in recent years, China has emerged as a major source of aid and loans to Tajikistan, giving Beijing leverage.
While China may have scored an important opening into what was Russia’s backyard, clearly there is a limit to exports to central Asian states. With a population of 8.5 million and a GDP per capita (purchasing power parity) of US$2,749 – lower than China’s – Tajikistan is one of the poorest of the former Soviet states. However, China’s huge food processing capacity allows its exporters to be very competitive in the region.
It may be that Tajikistan is also a bridgehead into European markets. Back in Shaoshan, meanwhile, AQSIQ says it has started to provide a “paperless customs service” to exporters, which allows for “much faster” processing of exports.