Coronavirus problems: Nutrition businesses in China seek return to normality as extended holiday ends

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

DSM's vitamin C facility at Jiangshan, China.
DSM's vitamin C facility at Jiangshan, China.

Related tags China Dsm coronavirus

Supplement manufacturers and suppliers in China sought return to normalcy as they resume operations as the extended Chinese New Year holiday – lengthened by the novel coronavirus outbreak – comes to an end.

Examples include Lonza which resumed production of its L-carnitine at Guangdong a few days ago on Feb 10, while DSM said its large-scale sites had been fully operational. 

Lonza said the epidemic had required the company to await approval from the authorities to recommence operation.

Its other site for producing nutrition capsule at Suzhou had earlier resumed operation on Jan 30, head of global marketing communications, Lonza Nutritional Ingredients, Aparna Parikh, said in response to queries from NutraIngredients-Asia.

She said that the extended shutdown of the L-carnitine plant was not affecting customer supply as the company had sufficient stock from outside of China.

However, the company foresaw that there would be disruption to logistics and customs.

Shipments into, and out of the China, have been minimised due to government restrictions.”

Nonetheless, the company expects logistics to “begin normalising in the week of Feb 10, subjected to local policies”, ​adding that it is “difficult to gauge the extent of potential impact” ​at this point in time.

Another firm, DSM said its large-scale sites were fully operational. One of its key nutrition facilities in China is its vitamin C plant in Jiangshan.

So far, the majority of our operations run as planned and we haven’t seen a significant impact, as our large-scale sites are fully operational,” ​Dr Jiang Weiming, president of DSM China told us.

He added that the large-scale sites have been operational during and since CNY holidays, including the company's Jiangshan and Xinghuo sites in JingJiang Jiangsu province and the Fengxian district near Shanghai respectively.

On the other hand, the company's joint-venture site with Nenter is located in the Hubei province, and was already shut down to upgrade to DSM standards.

Although the emotional impact for many employees in China is significant, we are also impressed by their commitment to keep our operations running. We are in frequent contact with them and support them as best as we can,” ​he said, adding that the total impact of the virus to China or the business was “unknown”.

Consumer confidence

Both Lonza and DSM remain optimistic about customers’ confidence in buying China-made products, despite the spread of the epidemic throughout the country.

"We don’t expect this situation to affect customer confidence in Chinese production. Our plants in China are internationally-recognised and inspected, and part of our global network,”​ Parikh said.

Dr Jiang, on the other hand, said that the company “has no reason”​ to believe that the products or ingredients sourced from areas affected by the current outbreak would pose any quality or food safety risk.

However, director of the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Medicines and Health Products (CCCMPHIE) Zhang Zhong Peng was less sanguine.

Asked the impact of the epidemic on the import and export of health foods, he said that the impact at present was “not very positive.”

“The export might be affected due to factors related to logistics issues and quality checks.”   

Logistics for frontline workers

On the other hand, to facilitate smooth supply chain, Alibaba Group launched a global B2B sourcing platform last week to connect medical goods with frontline medical personnel in China.

Known as the Alibaba Global Direct Souring Platform, the tool will serve as an information bridge for suppliers, including large wholesalers, as well as small and medium-sized enterprises.

Alibaba will specify the types of products in need in the hospitals on the platform, and suppliers will provide information about the types of products that they can offer.

Alibaba will begin the procurement once there is an acceptable match, and the goods purchased will go to the hospitals based on urgency and priority.

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