Archive for the ‘farmers’ Category

China: Farmers That Survived Poisoned Milk Scandal

January 8, 2009

The drive to Shijiazhuang from Beijing is long and gray. It is the city at the heart of China’s tainted milk scandal, where Sanlu headquarters is based. Small dairy farms that once supplied milk to Sanlu, and thrived on its business, lie on the outskirts.

When we arrived at one farm, I saw the first signs of life, vibrant signs. Twenty or so cows bristled at our arrival. I didn’t realize how curious, even social, cows can be. A few ran to the edge of the fence staring at us intently. Maybe they were just hungry. A 2-month-old calf tied to a post at the entrance quietly observed us.

By Emily Chang

The farmer, Feng Xianying, acknowledged us with a quiet handshake, then went on to mix up the day’s lunch – basic feed with some extra nutrients from what I could tell – and serve it in twenty or so individual bins for the cows to munch. He was methodical, silent, but I would say, good-natured. There was a rhythm in his step. He did it all with care.

When he opened the pen, the cows filed out obediently, each taking its place to feed. Feng served a small portion to the calf. “He’s too small to stay in the pen with others,” he said.

There was a time when Feng Xianying thought he might have to kill his cows to survive.

News that Sanlu had been selling tainted milk had broken. Apparently, middlemen had bought milk from the farmers then mixed it with a toxic chemical called melamine to artificially boost protein levels.

Hundreds of thousands of children got sick and China’s dairy industry was on the verge of collapse. Sanlu stopped operations, and stopped buying milk from Feng and other farmers.

Many farmers gave up, but Feng pushed through the roughest times, kept his business afloat and his cows alive.

He survived thanks in part to government support.

“The government provided loans to support the dairy industry, so I was able to buy some new cows,” he told me. “In the past, the government was ignorant and competition between the dairies was fierce, so they didn’t care about the quality of the milk.”

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China’s dairy industry took deadly shortcuts to growth

January 8, 2009
Milk was an unpopular product only a generation ago, and then business executives and the government pushed its consumption. Some couldn’t compete and cheated.
By Barbara Demick
January 8, 2009
Reporting from Xingtang, China — Like many Chinese peasants of his generation, 53-year-old Wang Zhengnian had never seen a cow until he reached adulthood. He certainly never drank a glass of milk.

The fact that Wang now spends his days tending 400 cows on a farm near Beijing says a lot about the way China created a dairy industry out of thin air. But in their haste, the Chinese made mistakes that left six babies dead and hundreds of thousands ill from tainted milk.

Milk is not part of the traditional Chinese diet. Most Chinese adults are lactose-intolerant and many are repelled by the smell of dairy products.

But in the 1990s, economic planners decided that dairy cows were a quick way to improve rural incomes, particularly in northern provinces such as Hebei, Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang with cool climate, flat terrain and lack of other economic prospects. To encourage consumption, the propaganda machine spread the word that children needed to drink milk to grow as strong and tall as Westerners.

China farm 

Above: A cattle farm in the eastern Chinese city of Jimo. Milk and other dairy products weren’t popular before the 1990s. Photo: Wu Hong / European Pressphoto Agency

In a landscape that looks more Rust Belt than Dairy Belt, people opened farms in patches of land between derelict factories and villages.

“Cows have been good for us,” Wang said as he whistled for his herd to come in for milking last week in Xingtang County, 170 miles southwest of Beijing. “The business is bad right now because of the scandal, but it was great before.”

The now-bankrupt dairy producer Sanlu Group, headquartered in Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei, was a big reason for the success. Company Chairwoman Tian Wenhua was a Communist Party official, but also a reformer. She now faces life imprisonment for covering up the scandal over Sanlu’s tainted milk.

China Serves Hard to Swallow Poison Food Trial for Western “Consumption”

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