For the first time, Finnish pork, renowned for its high quality, joins the ranks of other foreign brands that are served on Chinese dinner tables.
Finnish meat producer Atria, based in Seinajoki, western Finland, found its way to the world's biggest pork consuming market when it delivered its first batch of meat to China last summer.
Another major Finnish food producer HKScan is following soon.
In the past eight months, Atria has reached its goal of exporting 3,000 tons of raw pork to China, with exports expected to reach 5,000 tons in the first 12-month period.
Although the volume is less than one twentieth of the 1.2 million tons imported by China, Atria's CEO Juha Grohn expects sales to steadily grow if products satisfy consumers.
"Everything from the Chinese food culture we need to understand, so that our products are suitable for that kitchen," Grohn told Xinhua.
Grohn said the company has just launched new departments in the Seinajoki plant, to become more flexible to prepare different tailor-made products. The packing department and steering system enabling traceability is constructed especially for the Chinese customers.
Some 300 deboners and other operators have also been trained in meeting Chinese requirements, he said.
"I think China is enormous; the competition is very tough. What we can offer is transparency and traceability. We can follow production from farm to the last step of delivery to China," said Grohn.
So far, Atria's pork is transported to China by sea freight, but it is optional to use the China-Europe cargo train to shorten the delivery time in the future, said Grohn.
Finland's effort to pave the way for pork exports to China is beneficial not only for the food industry, but also to farmers who suffered from the standoff between Russia and the EU.
A farmer who gave his name as Olli told Xinhua sanctions between EU and Russia in 2014 brought about an interruption to Finnish food exports to Russia, resulting in a decline of local pig purchase prices by 20 percent.
For three years Olli's profit was almost zero, and the situation reversed only in 2017, mainly due to Chinese imports. "The Chinese market helps us a lot," noted Olli.
"We hope Chinese demand is more solid in volume and price, and it also means solid benefit for the farmers," said Grohn.
Atria cooperates with about 300 out of the 1,000 pig farms in Finland, offering them with expertise guidance and advisory services to ensure acquired pigs are clean and healthy.
Jukka Rantala, an expert with the Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners, told Xinhua that Finland also has strict regulations on the raw materials to be used in pig feeds, but farmers can make up the ingredients from an approved selection with the help of advisers.
Olli's partner Pentti Honkala owns an average sized Finnish farm of 1,500 pigs. Honkala grows barley and wheat in his own farm, buys protein products from the market, and mixes them with water to feed the piglets.
"I hope Chinese customers are satisfied with our products. We have clean air, clean water, no illness, good regulation, and all farmers know each other," said Honkala, who is the only person who can enter the piggery in order to make sure it is free of disease.