With operations in breeding and slaughtering (as well as feed processing), Henan Yisai Beef (Stock) Co has also set the very ambitious target of ultimately processing one million head of cattle a year in China – it currently has capacity for 400,000.
Touting a new slogan ‘Yisai beef, China beef, World beef!’ company general manager Mai Yingpan, who set up the firm in 2002 with proceeds from his coal business, has been rallying staff to drive sales to meet the new goals.
The company had sales companies operating in 28 provinces by the end of 2018, as well as branches in 104 cities, guaranteeing delivery within one hour, noted Mai in a recent memo to staff and investors holding the company’s shares, which are issued on China’s so-called ‘third board’ for SMEs.
Last year, Yisai opened new workshops processing 30,000 tonnes (t) of steak and 30,000t of hot pot cuts (per year) in its home base of Henan province in central China. The firm, which only commenced significant imports in 2015, also last year aborted a plan to seek a stock market listing overseas.
Yisai’s new strategy curiously makes little or no mention of the company’s long-term identity as a halal firm. Yisai (the ‘yi’ part of the name uses the same character as that used to write Islam in Mandarin) appears to be affected by an ongoing crackdown in China against Islamic extremism, which has seen government scrap local halal certifications. Halal certification had long been associated with good hygiene in China, which has recently sought to Sinicise [make Chinese in character or form] and tighten control on mosques among its significant Muslim minority.
Yisai seems to have shifted course from a previous goal of expanding overseas halal sales (one of its advertising tag lines describe the company as ‘China’s innovative Muslim meat company’) to focus on rising Chinese consumption of beef and mutton. Underlining the shift, a new ‘experience store’ opened in Zhengzhou city in the populous Henan province this spring, offering customers the chance to buy fresh and frozen cuts to be cooked in-store or taken home. There is no reference to halal in the store’s signage or brochures.
The company has upped its sales target for 2019 to CNY5.5 billion – having set a target of CNY3.3bn for 2018. Revenues ultimately totalled CNY1.98bn in 2018, according to the company report, up 25.9% year on year, with profits attributable to shareholders up 19% to CNY104m. Yisai announced revenues of RMB1.57bn per year in 2017 – up 30.5% on the 2016 figure – while profits rose 12% year on year to RMB88m. However, debt in the period rose from CNY459m in 2016 to RMB779m in 2017.