China’s virus-hit cities start to restore production

China’s virus-hit cities start to restore production
A woman wearing a protective mask to help stop the spread of coronavirus walks at an empty shopping mall in the Sanlitun area in Beijing. (AFP/File)
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Updated 19 February 2020

China’s virus-hit cities start to restore production

China’s virus-hit cities start to restore production
  • Beijing is conscious of striking a balance between stamping out the epidemic which has infected more than 70,000 people and killed over 2,000 people

BEIJING: Big manufacturing hubs on the Chinese coast are starting to loosen curbs on the movement of people and traffic while local governments prod factories to restart production, following weeks of stoppages due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Beijing is conscious of striking a balance between stamping out the epidemic which has infected more than 70,000 people and killed over 2,000 people, and shielding the already weakened economy from more damage.

The city of Foshan, a large manufacturer of electronics and household appliances in southern Guangdong province, said late on Tuesday that businesses no longer need to seek prior approval before resuming operations and they need not require returning workers to show proof of their health.

On Monday, the nearby city of Zhongshan similarly lowered such administrative barriers.

In eastern Zhejiang province over the weekend, the cities of Hangzhou and Ningbo also pared back the approval process for companies looking to restart.

“Macro and micro data suggest production activities are resuming at a slow pace in China, reaching 60-80 percent of normal levels by end-Feb and normalizing only by mid-to-late March,” Morgan Stanley wrote in a research noted.

“If the spread of the virus is not contained within the next two weeks, the disruption to production could extend into the second quarter.”

Analysts polled by Reuters expect China’s economic growth could slow to 4.5 percent in the first quarter from 6 percent in the previous quarter, but some recently downgraded forecasts again into the 3-4 percent range, citing delays in resuming production.

Some cities in Guangdong and Zhejiang this week organized buses and trains to ferry workers back from their hometowns.

The city of Taizhou, in Zhejiang, even arranged for several planes to pick up migrant workers from Chongqing, Guiyang, Chengdu, Kunming and Xian, with the local government of Taizhou footing a third of the bill.

The outbreak has also chilled consumer demand and hammered the services sector, with restaurants, hotels, cinemas and travel agents among the segments most visibly hit.

China’s auto market is likely to see sales slide over 10 percent in the first half of 2020 because of the epidemic.

In a bid to revive consumption, Foshan announced stimulus measures for its auto market, the first city in China to do so amid the outbreak.

The city government will offer subsidies of 2,000 yuan ($285) for purchases of new cars and 3,000 yuan for replacement of existing cars, according to a document published on Feb. 3 on its website.


Middle East organic milk company sees surge in sales during COVID-19 lockdown

Dairy and plant-based drink company Koita Foods saw a 350 percent rise in online sales last year. (Supplied)
Dairy and plant-based drink company Koita Foods saw a 350 percent rise in online sales last year. (Supplied)
Updated 7 min 19 sec ago

Middle East organic milk company sees surge in sales during COVID-19 lockdown

Dairy and plant-based drink company Koita Foods saw a 350 percent rise in online sales last year. (Supplied)
  • Online demand for Koita Foods’ dairy, plant-based drinks soar by 350%

RIYADH: Dairy and plant-based drinks company Koita Foods saw a 350 percent rise in online sales last year as consumers working from home during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic embraced e-commerce and healthier diets.

“Many platforms are asking for our products as globally there is a big move toward buying online,” Mustafa Koita, the firm’s founder and CEO, told Arab News.

Established in 2013 in Dubai, Koita Foods’ mission is to make healthy food more accessible for families in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia (MENASA) region.

The company’s data showed that during the first half of 2020 total sales in Saudi Arabia increased by 111 percent year-on-year, with a 150 percent rise in demand for plant-based drinks, and a 140 percent growth in sales of lactose-free produce.

There has been a huge demand in Saudi Arabia recently for more organic, lactose-free, and non-dairy milk options, with sales up by around 31 percent.

Dairy and plant-based drink company Koita Foods saw a 350 percent rise in online sales last year. (Supplied)

“People are looking for vitamin D, especially when you’re looking at immunity. Immunity is now a buzzword with coronavirus,” Koita said.

Although the business’ online sales have increased during the period of the global health crisis, Koita noted that the virus outbreak had impacted on the sector.

“Seventy percent of my business is retail and grocery stores. The other 30 percent is hotels, restaurants, and catering. So, the hotels got shut down, but the grocery stores were the only thing open in the region,” he added.

In order to monitor the fast-growing new sector, the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) has put in place stringent product labelling requirements, in a bid to adhere to international standards.

“They want consumers to see and to have more information at hand. So, we’ve also updated our labels with the SFDA requirements. And we’re very excited that the SFDA is acting as the leader,” Koita said.

Mustafa Koita, Founder and CEO of Koita Foods. (Supplied)

The company already has its own strict labelling policy on ingredients. “We already have very good ingredients, such as our organic chocolate milk which is made from organic cocoa, organic brown sugar, and organic milk.”

A self-funded venture, Koita conducted extensive research into the marketplace before launching his namesake products. Via social media, he interviewed thousands of mothers in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Jordan, and Singapore to find out what they were looking for in a good organic milk solution.

When it came to production, he picked Torino, in Italy, a region known for making some of the best milk in the world. “I found out that the quality of milk depends on what the cows are eating or what is in the soil, as well as how the cows are treated, the pasteurization process, and packaging of the milk.”

He added that the land in Italy was very fertile and that cows there enjoyed a good quality of life. “They have a better view than I do in my own home,” he said.

Koita Foods’ products are sold in more than 1,000 retail outlets throughout the MENASA region and other emerging markets, with revenue continuing to grow.

“We did a lot of expansion in 2020, and I think now what we want to do is focus on doing a better job in the 11 countries that we’re already in.”

Koita added that Saudi Arabia was one of its core markets and that he aimed to improve the firm’s distribution network in the Kingdom over the next 12 months.