The Portuguese Consul in Guangzhou, the third-largest city in China, lamented the “ignorance and lack of interest” of Portuguese businessmen in this jurisdiction, one of the most prosperous and populous in the Asian country.
“Portugal is very little represented in Guangdong province and, particularly, very little represented in Shenzhen city”, explained André Sobral Cordeiro to Lusa agency.
The diplomat was speaking on the sidelines of an event promoting Portuguese wine held in a luxury hotel on Monday, located in the financial district of Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province.
Guangdong is the Chinese province that exports the most and the first to benefit from the economic reforms adopted by the country in the late 1970s, integrating three of China’s six Special Economic Zones – Shenzhen, Shantou and Zhuhai.
A regional integration plan, called the Greater Bay Area, aims to connect the main cities in the province and the neighboring semi-autonomous regions of Macau and Hong Kong, in a common market composed of about 70 million inhabitants and a Gross Domestic Product of US$1.5 billions – higher than the economies of Australia, Indonesia and Mexico, countries that are part of the G20.
The city of Shenzhen, once a quiet village, is now home to China’s leading technology firms, including the telecommunications group Huawei, car maker BYD or Internet giant Tencent.
“Some European countries of our size, and even smaller ones, have 30 or 40 companies in Shenzhen,” explained Sobral Cordeiro. “This, economically, makes a difference”, he pointed out.
The Portuguese diplomat’s statements come at a time when China is the only major world economy to operate fully, after successfully controlling the covid-19 pandemic.
The country is also undertaking a campaign to eradicate extreme poverty, which includes the transfer of a large part of the rural population to urbanized areas, increasing the need to import food goods.
“What China says is that it wants to buy and China, in fact, needs to buy, in the agri-food sector, where it is more than obvious, but not only,” said the consul.
Wolfgang, president of the Guangdong Food Import Association, said that in the wine sector, China has moved from a period when the industry was controlled by some large distributors, with a national monopoly, to a period of fragmentation.
“Consumers are now looking for difference, something new and with a good price-quality ratio,” he explained.
Packaged foods are another promising area, Wolfgang said.
“There are more and more young Chinese home-makers, who like to eat ‘snacks’ while watching television or playing computer games,” he said.
The leader of the Guangdong Food Importers Association recalled that the Cantonese “love to eat” and that Guangdong is a foreign trade province with several large ports.
“We are a very populous province and we have a function as a distribution center for the whole of China,” he described.
In the absence of more initiative on the part of Portuguese entrepreneurs, Chinese investors have in recent years developed wine estates and brands in Portugal, which are now sold in China.
This is the case of Macau businessman Wu Zhiwei, owner of Quinta da Marmeleira, in Alenquer. Launched in 2015, Marmeleira produces more than 200,000 bottles of wine, about 50 kilometers north of Lisbon.
For Carmen Wu, advisor to the chairman of the board of directors of Quinta da Marmeleira, it is necessary to bring more Portuguese products to China and to “vigorously” promote Portuguese culture in the Asian country.
The wine estate already has 100 hectares of cultivated area and intends to continue to expand, through the acquisition of attached land.
“Our focus is not just on Guangdong or Shanghai province” the country’s economic “capital”, he explained. “We want to sell across China,” he said.