A very British coop in China

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The Independent Online
A SMALL chicken-house manufacturer based in Wales is a forerunner in the growing movement of British companies doing business with China.

After six years of negotiations, feasibility studies and technical discussions, Jaques Hall & Co has defeated strong international competition to land an initial pounds 2m export order to supply the Chinese Department of Agriculture with 30 environmentally controlled poultry houses.

The buildings, complete with feeders, drinkers and electrically controlled lighting and fans, are supplied in kit form and are destined for model exhibition farms at five sites.

The contract has enabled Jaques Hall, which for the past two years has been hard hit by recession, to move from its former premises at Shobdon, Herefordshire, to a much larger site at Presteigne, Powys, and to double its workforce to 84, mainly production workers and erection gangs.

The deal was set in motion when representatives of the Chinese agricultural department visited the company's stand at the 1988 International Poultry Fair at Stoneleigh, Warwickshire. As a result, Don Jaques, the managing director, was invited to visit China to meet the Minister of Agriculture. This was the start of protracted negotiations.

The challenge has been defeating the competition - from Germany, the Netherlands and, in particular, Australia. But Kevin Cuppleditch, sales manager, says Britain leads the world in agriculture generally, but specifically poultry, and produces the best environmentally controlled equipment. Government departments have been supportive, notably the Overseas Development Administration, the DTI and the Welsh Office which, according to Mr Cuppleditch, 'ironed out in advance any problems we might be likely to have'.

Warnings of possible pitfalls also came from the British Embassy in Peking, which provided useful introductions and sound translators.

Mr Jaques, who founded the company in 1971 with Terry Hall, believes there is scope and opportunity for British business in China. He said: 'We work with local labour; they are hard working and thorough and we are pleased to be going out there again.'

In fact, there may well be a number of further trips, as the Chinese government needs 984 sectional poultry buildings, and Jaques Hall hopes to supply them all.