Ladies and Gentlemen,
I'm YU Xubo from COFCO Corporation, the largest agricultural and food company rooted in China with a 70-year of history, connecting the world’s major production and sales regions. We serve customers and consumers in over 140 countries and regions.
Over the past few months, we, just like everyone else, have been facing extreme challenges brought by COVID-19. The virus is our common enemy that knows no border. No one can remain isolated and insulated from the global crisis.
COVID-19 has connected us and made us re-examine our responsibilities, both as individuals and as businesses. In this “war” against COVID-19, we have seen many people from all walks of life, including “angels in white”, community workers and volunteers, being driven by the call of duty, step forward bravely. They are heroes who choose to sacrifice themselves simply for the good of others. Here I would like to share with you some of the stories from COFCO.
This photo was taken in Wuhan back in February this year, and shows Changqing Store of Zhongbai Storage, one of Wuhan’s biggest markets where COFCO offers its fresh meat under the “Joycome” brand.
COVID-19 struck Wuhan just before Chinese Lunar New Year, the most important traditional holiday in China, when most families in Wuhan would prepare meat-based dishes such as lotus roots and ribs, and pearl-shaped meat balls. Being one of the most popular brands in Wuhan, “Joycome” has a market share of over 30%.
Wuhan pressed the “pause” button, when the lockdown was imposed. All markets including farmers’ markets, convenience stores and restaurants were closed, and people streamed into supermarkets to stock up on essential supplies, especially fresh food, grains and oils, and other foodstuffs.
This photo shows one such scene. Back then, demand for small-packaged fresh meat from Joycome more than doubled year-on-year, but the number of sales clerks on duty shrank to one-third due to the impact of COVID-19.
Behind the store lies COFCO’s supply chain from farming and processing to sales and distribution of fresh meat in Hubei, and factories across the country. In order to serve the people of Wuhan, staff at COFCO Meat Wuhan worked at full throttle in order to supply 27,000 packs of fresh meat each day with only 40% to 60% of staff on duty. Before COVID-19, the factory produced an average of 20,000 packs daily at full capacity. On Feb 4, the number surged to 35,491 packs, shattering its record for daily output. As the a result of that, the staff did not take a day off, not even during the Lunar New Year holiday.
COFCO Meat Wuhan is only a small example of COFCO’s efforts in ensuring the supply of grains, oils and foodstuffs after the outbreak of COVID-19.
In China, one in every two people consumes COFCO food products, which, in other words, means that COFCO connects with the dining tables of at least 700 million people. In times of crisis like this, it is our responsibility to ensure people get what they need at fair prices.
With fast development of urbanization and logistics systems, essential supplies for big cities like Wuhan come from all over the country. In the wake of public health emergencies, a temporary imbalance in supply and demand of grains and oils products in the regional market tends to happen. Wuhan has witnessed doubled to tripled demand for rice, flour, noodles, etc. compared with that of previous Lunar New Year holidays, with flour and fine dried noodles reaching consumption peaks.
COFCO sent over 200 tons of rice, 50 tons of flour and noodles, and 300 tons of edible oils to Hubei province every day. We have truly fulfilled our commitment to “supply with no cessation, price with no inflation, and quality with no compromise”.
What about COFCO’s moves in other countries besides China? When the pandemic first started in China, it was the harvest season of soybeans and corn in Argentina. Soybeans and corn are the lifeline for local farmers and also an important source of foreign exchange for the country. We are glad that local agricultural products find its way into the global market through COFCO supply chain as we are the largest exporter in the agriculture industry in Argentina. Our facility is located in the city of Rosario and is the hub of grain export from the Rio de la Plata River. Our colleagues in Argentine office are working hard. According to Hugo Acerbo, the health and security manager in the local office, the national lockdown of Argentina did not impact much of our local business, thanks to the COVID-19 supplies sent by COFCO’s headquarters shortly after the outbreak. They will spare no effort to ensure the continuous supply of Argentina soybeans and corn in the spirit of people’s lives always come first.
We are aiming at one simple goal, which is to make sure people have food on their tables, and the food is healthy and safe. It is our responsibility and most importantly, our commitment to what President Xi Jinping proposed—“a community with a shared future for mankind”. In the face of global catastrophe, this concept has been given even more prominence because of its practical significance and value at this time. COVID-19 poses a great challenge for the process of globalization, and also a great challenge for Chinese enterprises. No enterprise and no country can insulate itself from such challenges. Being responsible for humanity means you need to be responsible for every single person.
There is an old saying that “a friend in need is a friend indeed”. Hundreds of thousands of farmers and small and medium-sized enterprises in China, South America, North America, Australia, the Black Sea and other major grain production and sales regions along our global supply chain are all our important partners. How can we forget them at a time like this? To meet their needs is always our top priority.
This photo was taken in Chongzuo, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, back in March this year. The city is regarded as China’s “sugar town”, and March is the most crucial period for sugarcane harvest. However, migrant workers could not come back to work on schedule, and most of the vehicles and routes could not operate normally due to COVID-19. Sugarcane growers felt hopeless because there was nothing they could do but to leave the sugarcane to rot in the fields.
At this critical moment, COFCO Sugar, a subsidiary of COFCO Corporation, formed a “sugarcane vanguard” of 52 employees as fast as they could. They worked 31 consecutive days together with sugarcane growers in the fields. A team member called Liang Jiahao said something that impressed me very much: “Sugar is a sweet business. I found great joy in helping sugarcane growers although I felt exhausted during the harvest.”
There are cases of COFCO in other fields of business as well. We shipped corn and soybean meal to farmers in Hubei for their feed use; we solved difficulties in grain sales for farmers in Heilongjiang; we secured the funds for raising cattle for livestock farmers in Inner Mongolia, etc.
Indeed, wherever there is need, we are always there for you. This picture shows the medical alcohol from COFCO to Beijing during the outbreak. People may wonder why the bottles look like liquor; yes, that’s true, they were actually prepared for liquor. COFCO Biotechnology, a COFCO subsidiary, successfully switched its liquor production lines to produce medical alcohol within 48 hours in order to meet emergency needs. “New alcohol in old bottle” was the fastest and the most economical solution. They started production of medical alcohol right from the first day of China Lunar New Year Holiday, and so far they have provided more than 90,000 tons of medical alcohol to the domestic market in supporting the fight against COVID-19.
This picture was taken in Wuhan back on Jan 24, right on Lunar New Year’s Eve. China National Pharmaceutical Group, a sister company under SASAC, provided our colleagues on the frontline of production and distribution in Wuhan with protective masks and disinfectants.
From that moment, we have delivered protective supplies including masks and protective suits to frontline workers along our supply chains of rice, flour, oil, meat and milk etc. by means of overseas procurement and client assistance from Switzerland, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and many other countries. Chinatex, another subsidiary of COFCO, changed its production lines to medical protective masks within seven days, in order to protect our colleagues in Wuhan, the factories that newly resumed food supplies to Wuhan and the rest of the Hubei market, and our staff who serve in the Beijing market.
Overseas, we do our best to provide workers in COFCO factories in Brazil, Argentina and other major production countries and regions with protective masks and gloves. Drivers and visitors will have their temperature checked, use disinfection spray, hand sanitizers and gloves, and reduce contact between people as much as possible.
COFCO has 160,000 staff in over 50 countries and regions across the world, and it is our duty to take measures to contain COVD-19 and ensure their safety and health.
Last, not least, I have one more story to share, a story of reciprocating friendship and kindness from others. The photo was taken back in February this year when China was struck by the virus. Our Italian supplier Cavit Group and other global partners rushed to help COFCO with protective supplies. Unfortunately, with the pandemic evolvement in March, Italy became one of the worst affected countries in the world and there was a severe scarcity of medical supplies in the local market. COFCO acted very quickly. We allocated 6,980 protective masks and 5,000 pairs of gloves and successfully delivered them to our friends in Trento, Italy.
“We are waves from the same sea, leaves from the same tree, and flowers from the same garden.” We have never been so touched by the words of ancient Roman philosopher Seneca. As of today, China has adapted to the new normal of COVID-19, although the pandemic is still raging in many places. “Like the mountain range that stretches before you and me, let’s share the same trials and hardships together.” Taking responsibility for consumers, partners, employees and communities, should be our common goal.
President Xi pointed out during his recent visit to Shaanxi province, that in response to COVID-19, State-owned enterprises have brought into full play their role of leading and being a major force, and they will be expected to do the same in resuming work. It is a strong encouragement for our achievement fighting the pendemic, but also more of a command to our future performance at the stage of new-normal. We will spare no effort and stand by each other through difficult times, and continue to fulfill our responsibility with greater courage. I strongly believe that as long as we fight side by side, shoulder-to-shoulder, this planet we call it home will eventually become safe and sound again.