AB Agri secures new licence in China

Animal feed company expand in China

UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) have helped animal feed and nutrition specialist AB Agri China secure a licence to produce feed at a purpose-built mill in Jiangsu province. The company has a total turnover of £1.6 billion, £200 million of which comes from China. AB Agri currently exports to 66 countries around the world and employs over 2,000 UK staff.

A proper nutritious diet is key for farm animals to be healthy and grow well. AB Agri manufactures animal feed and nutrition supplements for poultry, cattle and pigs, and has a total turnover of £1.6 billion. The company, founded in 1984, is a subsidiary of Associated British Foods, a manufacturing and retail conglomerate, whose other brands include Twinings tea, Ryvita crackers and fashion retailer Primark.

AB Agri got its start in the UK by utilising sugar beet pulp as nutritious feed for cattle. The company has consistently expanded its operations to cover all animal feed sectors. It also produces vitamin and mineral supplements, micro-ingredients to boost animals’ health and digestion, and technology-based feed analysis solutions to farmers. China is its largest manufacturing base outside the UK. AB Agri also exports to 65 other countries around the world. Its 2,000 members of staff in the UK are spread throughout the country and its headquarters are located in Peterborough.

“We are known around the world for our quality feed and nutritional solutions and high levels of feed safety,” says Phil Hill, Programme Director for AB Agri China. “We have a strong commitment to developing new products and solutions, increasing efficiency through the food chain and the health and well-being of animals from birth and throughout their life.”

New opportunities in China for animal feed companies

AB Agri expanded into China in 1996, after seeing demand for its products there. In the years since, the company has grown its presence to include 8 manufacturing sites in the central and northern parts of the country. It has a reputation for supplying safe and healthy animal feed and supplements. Chinese companies in the public and private sectors now turn to AB Agri China for guidance on nutrition, hygienic farming methods and healthy animal rearing. The local subsidiary is headquartered in Shanghai and manufactures around 1 million tonnes of product for the Chinese market a year. In this market the company has a turnover of over £200 million and a staff of 1,000.

In June 2014, AB Agri contacted UKTI’s China team, having had a long-standing relationship with them. The company was in the middle of building a new poultry feed mill for a client in Jiangsu province and was having difficulty securing a feed production licence in time for the opening of the mill. As a result, it expected a delay of a number of weeks meaning it would lose out on valuable production time. Looking for guidance on how to resolve the problem, the company met with UKTI’s agriculture and food and drink advisers in Shanghai who introduced the company to senior government officials in the province who were able to speed up the licensing process. This helped to secure the licence before the mill was opened at the end of 2014.

“UKTI’s introductions opened doors for us that otherwise would have remained closed,” says Phil. “In China, personal relationships are key to successful business operations. UKTI’s contacts around the country are really important to us. Thanks to their assistance, we were able to open our new mill on time, ensuring that we could deliver on our promise to our customer in supplying poultry feed to them when they required it.”

Future plans

AB Agri China is currently putting new mill development plans into place. Over next 3 to 5 years, it aims to construct additional feed mills and plans to work closely with UKTI for further high level government introductions.

The company is also collaborating with its UKTI advisers to identify other large and strategic partners to which it can offer its full range of agricultural services.

“We have found UKTI to be an ideal partner, and they have approached our business with enthusiasm and positivity,” says Phil. “In the 17 years that we have been in China, we have learned that having a local highly skilled Chinese team has been critical to our success. In a country where high staff turnover is the norm, we have put extra effort into staff retention, which has helped our business thrive. As we continue to grow across China, we plan to meet more regularly with UKTI to share information about our activities and work with their experienced advisers to add value to our new ventures.”

Sectors: Agriculture, Horticulture & Fisheries
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