China sterol suppliers benefit from GM issue

Related tags Soybean

European mistrust of GM ingredients is creating strong demand for
Chinese plant sterols and natural vitamin E, increasingly backed by
third-party certification, writes Dominique Patton.

Shaanxi Tianwei Biological Products​ received an IP certificate from international testing firm GeneScan last month and says Europe has become its biggest market.

It currently has annual capacity of 250 tons of sterols and 200 tons natural vitamin E, and following the new demand created by its IP certificate, is looking at expanding capacity by a further 100 tons by setting up an additional plant.

"We have long-term contracts with Chinese soybean oil producers so there's enough raw material,"​ said Max Meng, sales manager at the firm.

He says that Shaanxi Tianwei first exported a trial sterol shipment to Finland's Raisio in 2003 but requirements for IP certification of non-GM ingredients stalled further sales.

It is now in contact with the Benecol maker once again.

Nanjing-based Fenchem also announced this year that its soy-derived sterols, vitamin E and isoflavones had been certified as non-GM by Swiss company SGS.

In addition, Beijing Gingko Group Biological Technology company claims to have IP certification for its product range too and is building a second production line to boost its capacity.

Although China is the world's biggest importer of soy and buys more than 20 million tones of GMO soyabeans each year for use in animal feed, some parts of its growing areas have remained free of GMO seed.

This gives Chinese producers an advantage over European or US sterol makers that must source raw materials from abroad. Added to low production costs, the Chinese IP products are highly competitive.

Fenchem says it can offer its IP products at up to 20 per cent cheaper than European competitors, while Meng claims a 30 per cent price advantage.

And despite the increasing number of Chinese producers of soy-derived products, Meng believes that IP is still limited to a handful of producers.

"We still have an advantage on the marketplace,"​ he said.

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