Friday, April 19, 2013

Fake Soymeal and Infertile Pigs

China's tolerance of fakes and counterfeits is coming back to bite the country where it hurts. Most of the focus has been on fake watches, handbags, clothes, electronics, and other consumer product knockoffs. What gets less attention is the rampant counterfeiting and adulteration of farm inputs which inflicts losses on farmers and affects the country's ability to feed itself.

According to Business Reference News, pig farmer named Lei in Hezhou, a region in Guangxi Province,  noticed that his sows grew slowly, got sick, had irregular estrous cycles, or aborted, and piglets had high mortality. He consulted with neighbors who had similar problems and they determined the problem was with two brands of soymeal. Through testing they further determined that the stuff in the bags was not actually the products of these companies. It was counterfeit soymeal. Crude protein in soymeal should be 42 percent but the counterfeit soymeal had protein levels under 30 percent.

A farm buying the fake soymeal claims to have lost 75 sows last year, which they calculated to be worth 2 million yuan in losses based on the number of finished hogs they would have produced. The local industry and commerce bureau speculates that the losses are quite large since many small farmers probably bought the counterfeit feed without discovering the problem. The network of dealers who supply the fake soymeal is said to be still in operation.

The industry and commerce bureau checked farmers' receipts from soy meal purchases and found irregularities. The crude receipts didn't identify the brand or production site and they were not signed by the dealer, making it hard to trace the source of the problem.

It's hard to tell that the soymeal is fake. The counterfeiters duplicated the bags as well as the bar codes. A factory technician said even a people from the soymeal company wouldn't be able to tell it was fake.

A few other incidents of fake soymeal have been in the news from time to time. The most common problem detected by the Ministry of Agriculture's feed testing is low protein levels.

There are instructions for making fake soymeal and detecting it posted on various web sites. The ingredients include viscous white clay, wheat bran, and yellow dye.

One guy reposted it on a weibo and most responses expressed shock and disgust, but one poster replied by saying that traders buy 5000 tons daily directly from the factory, spend a lot on transportation and packaging, and it wouldn't be worth it to counterfeit such a large quantity. He said that they have not had any problem with counterfeit soymeal in his county since there are many local soybean-crushing plants and the farmers buy large volumes.

The original poster replied by saying that there are several villages in Jining, Shandong Province that specialize in counterfeit soy meal. He replied, "Older brother, go on line and you will know."

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