Japanese firms eye wine-tippling Chinese

Two leading Japanese companies said Tuesday they were setting up a joint venture to sell wine in China, predicting that consumption will rise as the economy booms.

Trading house Marubeni Corp. and Asahi Breweries Ltd. will each hold a 30 percent stake in the new company, with the other 40 percent to be held by China’s Dafuhao Beer.

The company, Jiangsu Saint Fruit Winery Co., will bottle red wine in Jiangsu province on China’s east coast using produce from overseas.

Eyeing rising wine consumption as China grows wealthier, the company will target selling 10 million litres (2.6 million gallons) of wine in 2013, mainly in the wealthy Yangtze River delta that includes Shanghai, the company said.

“The average yearly consumption of wine per Chinese person still remains as low as 0.3 litre and a further increase is expected,” said Marubeni in a statement.

The world average is seven litres a year. The average Frenchman drinks 60 litres a year while an American consumes 12 and a Japanese three, the statement said.

The new company, established with an initial investment of 12 million dollars, will start constructing a factory next month and aims to start selling wine in October.

China in 2002 overtook the United States as the world’s top beer producer and in 2006 accounted for about one-fifth of global beer production, according to an annual survey by Japanese brewer Kirin Holdings.

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