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[分享] 中英双语新闻-跌宕起伏的中国果冻作坊











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发表于 2007-8-22 11:32 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式

By Geoff Dyer in Bengbu
Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Liu Hongyuan lives with his family in one room of an outhouse behind the disused cement factory where he worked before it went bankrupt. In the other rooms, he operates a primitive factory making jelly.

The packaging machine is attached to vats for mixing the jelly by pipes held together with masking tape; the corrugated iron roof is covered with strips of plastic to keep the rain out. The temperature outside is above 27????C and it is hotter still inside the dusty store-room, but small plastic tubs of jelly - sometimes known in the US by the brand-name Jell-O - are stacked up to the roof with no refrigerator in sight.

"It is not dangerous to keep the jelly in such conditions," says Mr Liu, a 50-year-old from Bengbu in Anhui province. "They could be here for a year and still be safe." The jelly is full of preservatives, he adds, and the pieces of fruit at the bottom of the tubs are artificial.

Mr Liu's food factory is one of the many thousands that have sprung up in China in recent years -part of the surge in entrepreneurship that has propelled the country's high-octane economy.

But the proliferation of such backyard operations has become a headache for regulators now under enormous pressure to ensure the safety of Chinese food after a series of scandals, both at home and abroad.

The authorities estimate that 80 per cent of the country's 450,000 food manufacturers have fewer than 10 staff, which means they have few resources to spend on safety but are harder to monitor. The government said yesterday that 15 per cent of food products had failed quality checks in the first six months of the year.

If the US has company towns, China has product towns, where hundreds of companies specialise in one area, such as socks, buttons or cigarette lighters. For a while, Bengbu was winning itself a reputation as the "jelly capital". The local Yellow Pages, which is about two years old, lists 50 companies that make jelly-based sweets - and that is just the officially registered ones.
The city was an industrial centre in the 1960s, but the economy slumped in the 1990s as a string of state-owned companies were closed. Mr Liu is one of many residents who responded by setting up a makeshift jelly operation, mostly using the brand name "Universal".

Such companies found a fertile market. Rising incomes have created sharp growth in demand for food, but although the supermarket sector is expanding rapidly, only 25 per cent of spending goes through modern retailers, which are more closely monitored by regulators. Most of the rest is sold through corner stores, especially in rural areas.

"In the countryside, the women love jelly in transparent packages because they can give them as gifts to kids who can see what they are getting," says Mr Liu. As the fame of Bengbu jelly began to spread, he says, the manufacturers were selling to other regions.

Jiang Ruochen, dean of the business school at Anhui Finance and Economics University in Bengbu, says the region has seen a big rise in small food-makers.
位于蚌埠的安徽财经大学(Anhui Finance and Economics University)商务学院院长江若尘表示,该地区的小型食品加工企业数量已大幅增加。

"A lot of these operations have been set up as family workshops in people's backyards, which makes it much harder for the government to control," she says. "You cannot buy these products in the supermarket, but they sell well in rural areas."

But in the past two years conditions have become much harder for the city's jelly companies and some have gone out of business.

One reason is fierce competition. The entry cost is low - the machinery to make simple jelly products can be bought for $2,000 (?,500, £1,000) - and manufacturers in other cities have sprung up to meet demand.

There have been a number of safety scandals - mainly from children swallowing the plastic tubs along with the jelly - and over the past year, the government has been clamping down on some of the operators.

The primary reason for the decline of the jelly producers is changing consumer habits - which are also likely to have a big influence on food safety. Wang Fang, who runs a business at a Bengbu wholesale market, says she used to stock a lot of local jelly products, but consumers now want more established brands, which they think are safer.
"Customers are more concerned about the quality of food," she says. "Those jelly products made in Bengbu are only made to cheat kids in the countryside." Another wholesaler said he used to sell lots of jelly, but now acts as an agent for Nestlé.

Mr Liu admits the market has changed. There is still demand for his jelly, he says, but he would sell his machinery if a good offer came. "The big opportunity now is to do something more high-end that can sell in supermarkets."

Safety issues

China has been plagued with numerous problems concerning food safety over the last few years, including a 2004 scandal concerning fake baby milk that killed at least 13 infants. The issue came to the fore after the execution of Zheng Xiaoyu, the former chief food and drug regulator, for accepting bribes in exchange for the approval of various medicines.

Management consulting firm A.T. Kearney recently estimated that China would require a $100bn investment in order to solve its food safety issues.
管理咨询公司A.T.科尔尼(A.T. Kearney)最近估计,要想解决其食品安全问题,中国需要投入1000亿美元。


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