Pet industry has never had it so good in China

Updated: Jun 6 2007, 05:30am hrs
Accompanying quietly the economic boom and the growth of the middle class in China, is another kind of boom of epic proportions, which is that of pet ownership. What would have been an uncommon thing in the past, today owning a pet of a canine, feline or some other variety is quite commonplace. Whilst birds have long been a favourite pet for Chinese (especially with the elderly), today pets typically include dogs, cats, fish and other animals. And increasingly, owners with multiple pets are becoming common as well.

Pet ownership is quite high in Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing, Guangzhou and Wuhan. In some parts of Beijing and Shanghai, ownership of a pet has is seen as a must-have accessory for the well-off. Pet ownership in China is estimated to be about 100 million pets and estimated to reach 150 million pets by 2010. The market potential has already breached the $ 2 billion mark and likely to reach $ 5 billion by 2010. The recent pet boom has given birth to a new economic sector in its own right - the pet economy sector. The growth of the pet industry is bringing direct and indirect opportunities for business. Pet-food consumption, both domestic and imported, has grown exponentially during the past five years. Beijing alone imported pet food worth about $ 30 million in 2001, whilst in 2006 this figure has jumped to about $ 50 million. The compounded growth rate in Chinas pet food industry alone is averaging 30% per year.

Today in Beijing alone, there are more than 150 pet hospitals and many more perhaps that are not registered. While most supermarkets stock pet food, specialised pet shops offer a whole plethora of products. Multinational companies are already realising the potential size of the pet-food market and have been quick to get into manufacturing pet food locally. It is possible today in China to pamper ones pet with clothes, accessories, toys, vitamin supplement and fancy cages. Some of these pet shops often double up as kennels for boarding ones pets while on vacation overseas whilst pet beauty parlours offer bathing, fur-trimming or grooming, fancy haircuts and nail trimming, whilst some offer health consultancy and training and obedience programmes.

If it is hard for your pet to find a mate, then matchmaking facilities are also available. Dog vests can cost as much as $ 25- $ 30, while a session at a pet beauty salon could set the owner back by $ 50- $ 60. The popularity of breeding pets has given birth to specialised publications focusing on pets along with an explosion in internet sites that offer advice as well as buy-sell exchanges.

As with any development, the rapid growth of the pet industry has given rise to a spate of problems, which has now prompted lawmakers to bring in a series of regulations aiming to curtail the growth of this industry and bring some discipline.

Pet ownership is coming under strict scrutiny. Last year, during the traditional Chinese Year of the Dog, many Chinese bought dogs as pets. Beijing with a population of about 12 million people now boasts a dog population of about 1 million.

The author is deputy CEO, Arcelor Mittal, China