China is getting access to some of the most productive cows in the world.
State-owned Bright Food Group Co. said Thursday it is finalizing an agreement to take a 56% stake in Israel's Tnuva Food Industries Ltd. from private-equity firm Apax Partners. Financial details of the deal weren't disclosed.
The deal is in line with China's attempts to diversify its food sources, includes dairy products, as demand explodes and domestic production fails to catch up. China is particularly reliant on New Zealand for dairy, especially for whole milk powder used in infant formula production. To widen its supplier base, China has recently invested in milk powder plants in Europe and the U.S., for example.
Investing in Tnuva will give China access not only to Tnuva's dairy products, but also Israeli dairy technology, considered to be the most advanced in the world.
'The yields of cows in Israel are on average the highest in the world,' said Jacob Robbins, a former Coca-Cola Co. executive and founder of Emeterra, a Singapore-based agribusiness company. 'There is a clear linkage and very visible logic' behind Bright Food's thinking.
According to the Israeli Dairy Board, Israeli cows each produce almost 12,000 liters of milk a year. That compares to about 4,100 liters each for New Zealand cows and 5,500 liters for Australian cows, though feeding costs are lower there as the cows are pasture-fed as opposed to Israel's grain-fed variety.
Israel's technology would be a boon to China's dairy industry, which suffers from low yields and expensive feed costs. Israel, like China, suffers from a lack of arable land dry conditions, yet has mastered intensive dairy cattle raising and production.
China's cows each produce just four tons of milk a year, about 3,800 liters, and input costs are particularly high thanks to expensive feed, which is imported in large amounts from the U.S. But demand for dairy products from milk to cheese is growing rapidly, and as a result, foreign investors including private-equity firm KKR & Co. and Danish dairy giant Arla Foods have piled in to China's dairy industry, offering capital and expertise.
Despite efforts to overhaul its domestic dairy industry following the melamine food scandal in 2008, China's milk production hasn't managed to catch up to rising demand. Raw milk production in 2013 posted its biggest year-on-year drop since 2009 in percentage terms 35.31 million tons, according to the China National Bureau of Statistics, while imports for dairy products continue to rise. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates, for example, that China imported about 520,000 tons of whole milk powder last year, a 28% increase from the previous year.
中国国有企业光明食品（集团）有限公司(Bright Food Group Co., 简称：光明食品)周四表示，即将就收购以色列Tnuva Food Industries Ltd. 56%的股份敲定最终协议，股份的卖方是私募股权投资公司Apax Partners。该交易的财务细节未获披露。
可口可乐公司(Coca-Cola Co.)前高管、新加坡农业综合企业Emeterra的创始人罗宾斯(Jacob Robbins)表示，以色列奶牛的平均产奶量是全世界最高的，光明食品的想法有清晰的关联和非常明显的逻辑。
据以色列乳业委员会(Israeli Dairy Board)数据显示，每年每头以色列奶牛产出将近1.2万公升牛奶。相比之下，每头新西兰奶牛产奶大约4,100公升，澳大利亚奶牛产奶约5,500公升。不过，鉴于新西兰和澳大利亚的奶牛是用牧草喂养，当地饲料成本相对更低，而以色列奶牛则是用多种谷物喂养长大。
每年每头中国奶牛仅产奶4吨，相当于3,800公升，而且由于大批量从美国进口的饲料价格较高，投入成本格外大。不过，从牛奶到奶酪的各种乳制品需求正迅速增长，因此，包括私募股权投资公司KKR & Co.和丹麦乳制品巨头Arla Foods等海外投资者纷纷涌入中国乳制品行业，提供资金和专业技术。
在2008年三聚氰胺丑闻爆发后，尽管中国有关部门努力彻底检查国内乳制品行业，但国内牛奶产量仍无法赶上日渐增长的需求。据中国国家统计局的数据显示，去年牛奶产量3,531万吨，创下2009年以来同比最大百分比降幅，不过乳制品进口继续增长。美国农业部(U.S. Department of Agriculture)估计，去年中国全脂奶粉进口量约为52万吨，较此前一年增长28%。