Tokyo trader buys stake in pork player HyLife

Tuesday Jan 22 2013

Itochu seeks to sell "safe, secure" pork in China, Japan

A Japanese trading firm aiming to sell Canadian pork into Asian markets has bought a third of a major Manitoba producer and packer.

Itochu Corp. on Tuesday said it has paid about five billion yen (C$56.6 million) for a 33.4 per cent share of HyLife Group, based at La Broquerie, Man.

The deal, Itochu said in a release, is based on the understanding that HyLife's expansion strategy "most prioritizes markets of Japan and Asia" where the two companies could mutually help each other.

HyLife's sales of "safe, secure pork" are expected to increase through Itochu's marketing network in the Asian market, "with a focus on China, where consumption continues to grow, as well as in the Japanese market."

HyLife, which operates out of livestock-rich southeastern Manitoba, produces over 1.4 million pigs a year and has owned and operated the former Springhill Farms pork processing plant at Neepawa, about 75 km northeast of Brandon, since 2008.

HyLife, known as Hytek until 2011, also owns feed mills, genetics labs, a barn construction business and a farm supply distribution business for its barns. The company expanded its hog production business into the U.S. and, in 2008, China, where it's now a partner in Tianzow Food Co.

Itochu said it also expects the HyLife deal to help expand its business with China's Longda Foodstuff Group, a "significant partner" of Itochu's, by way of "technical exchanges in the field of pig production."

Tokyo-based Itochu's Canadian holdings until now have included an office in Vancouver and ownership of CIPA Lumber Co., a manufacturer of softwood veneers at Delta, B.C.

Itochu's agrifood holdings in North America otherwise include CGB Enterprises, a Louisiana Gulf grain handler and barge operator; EGT, a grain terminal operator at Longview, Wash.; and Oilseeds International, a San Francisco-based sunflower and safflower oil processor.

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