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Noodle makers get whiff of export success

By SHI RUIPENG in Nanning and CHEN MEILING | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-09-14 08:56

A visitor is attracted by items at a luosifen museum in Liuzhou. HUANG XIAOBANG/XINHUA

Orders pour in

Yao Hanlin, founder and chairman of Guangxi Luobawang Food Co, which is based in Liuzhou, said the company's sales have boomed since Spring Festival in late January, and it is completing orders booked by agents months ago.

He said the company received so many orders from e-commerce platforms in early March that it could only complete them in May or June. As a result, many clients canceled orders, with refunds totaling more than 15 million yuan a month. "It was crazy," Yao said.

Orders continued to pour in during June and July, traditionally quiet months for the business. "This year is special," Yao added.

The company has installed more production lines to meet the growing demand. Its daily output of luosifen has risen to 280,000 bags, up from 80,000 to 100,000 last year. When its new factory at the Luowei Industrial Park in Liuzhou starts operating in late December, daily output is set to reach 1 million bags.

The company exports to some 30 countries and regions, with the US its biggest overseas market.

Exports surged to 7 million yuan from January to July, 90 percent of them going to overseas Chinese and other Asians. Yao said this was due to the increased recognition of luosifen and rising household consumption of the dish.

To attract overseas customers, the company has adjusted its recipes, introducing a tomato flavor for diners who prefer a light taste, and a mustard one. More varieties are being developed.

However, Yao said one item remains unchanged-the locally grown bamboo shoots, which are the source of luosifen's iconic stinky aroma. "We want to retain the dish's uniqueness and help customers to remember it and love it," he added.

Chen Zihao, the company's foreign trade sales manager, told Workers' Daily that it exported 350,000 bags of luosifen in the first half of this year, 29 times the quantity for the whole of last year.

It uses bilingual labeling on bags and replaces ingredients banned in certain countries with alternatives that comply with local regulations. Chen said the company's latest orders have arrived from Japan, South Korea and Italy.

Yao said the company enjoys preferential government policies, such as priority customs clearance and inspections. It has also taken part in exhibitions in Germany, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Japan.

Its sales double annually, and this year are expected to grow by 200 percent to 300 percent, he added. In July, the company entered the Russian market for the first time, and its total exports this year are expected to reach 20 million yuan.

Liu Qingshi, chairman of Guangxi Luozhuangyuan Food Technology Co, told Xinhua News Agency in early March that his company has hired more workers, and to meet soaring demand, production has risen from 78,000 bags of luosifen a day to 120,000.

He said production continued during the Labor Day holiday in May to meet demand from domestic and overseas customers.

The company's products are sold at supermarket outlets such as Walmart, RT-Mart and Century Mart. It works with more than 100 agents worldwide and its online sales channels include the e-commerce platforms Tmall, JD and Vip. From January to July, its exports rose four fold year-on-year to reach about 10 million yuan, some 6 percent of total sales.

In January 2017, the company became the first in China to export luosifen to the US, when some 50,000 bags, valued at 600,000 yuan, were shipped.

It exports to countries and regions such as Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

The Liuzhou commerce bureau said luosifen exporters faced a challenge last year, when many countries banned imported pork and pork-based soup due to outbreaks of African swine flu.

The authorities in Liuzhou suggested that manufacturers use beef-or chicken-bone broth instead.

For example, Liu's company developed a new product using beef bone, which maintained the original flavor. The product was "very well received", Liu said, adding that exports rose significantly as a result.

The company is also among those who have joined training courses on foreign trade, which are arranged by the local authorities.

In 2015, it worked with experts from Sichuan University in Chengdu to lower the water content of rice noodles, prolonging their shelf life. It also partnered with actors in a livestreaming promotion this year.

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