Exports ride out toy safety crisis, with surge in orders

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 October, 2007, 12:00am

Official says pre-Christmas rush pushes sales up 27pc

The recent friction over China's product safety standards has not affected the export industry, with orders for mainland toys rising in the run-up to Christmas, the mainland's product safety head said yesterday.

'This shows the world still trusts made-in-China products,' Li Changjiang , director of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, said on the sidelines of the Communist Party's 17th National Congress.

Citing official figures, Mr Li said the mainland's exports had grown by 27.7 per cent in the first eight months of the year.

During an inspection trip to factories in Guangdong, Mr Li said he was told that business was thriving.

'A manager from a factory of 40,000 workers said they had to work overtime, or they simply wouldn't meet the demand,' he said.

The trip was arranged at the height of a new round of product safety crises triggered by Mattel's recall of 21 million mainland-made products.

The toys giant had said the toys were contaminated with lead paint, but Mattel's executive vice-president for worldwide operations later apologised for damaging China's reputation.

May Liang, secretary general of the China Toy Association, said the crisis caused by Mattel's recalls had pushed mainland manufacturers to focus more on product quality.

'Now manufacturers are more aware that quality is not a game and we must make 100 per cent sure of a product's safety as toys are for young children who are unable to protect themselves,' Ms Liang, who was in Shanghai attending the 6th Shanghai Toy Expo, said yesterday.

She said the association had called on manufacturers to understand clearly the requirements from importing countries and for buyers to intensify quality supervision of their suppliers.

Mr Li admitted quality of some mainland products and illegal exports was flawed and pledged to impose strict regulations and standards.

'Christmas is drawing close, many children around the world love toys made in China. Chinese companies will ensure quality Christmas toys for the children,' he said.

However, some toy manufacturers at the Shanghai exhibition said they were losing money.

Chen Jia, a manager of the Chuangjia Industrial Company, said many factories in the Chenghai district of Shantou, where her company was located, had seen orders halve in the past few months because their United States partners had not placed orders since mid-August.

Responding to accusations that products sold domestically could not match exported goods and were often sub-standard, Mr Li said the same standards applied to every product made on the mainland.

To improve food safety, a four-month crackdown was launched in August to weed out problematic operations.

Later this month, officials would meet with the United States Food and Drug Administration on issues related to the signing of a memorandum on food safety, Mr Li said.

He claimed Vice-Premier Wu Yi , a leading figure in the product safety campaign, had made an inspection trip from Shanghai to Zhejiang last month without telling authorities.

'She was happy about some of the operations and unhappy about some others,' he said.

'When China's leaders attach such importance to the quality of products, I believe we can achieve our goals.'