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Happy Holidays from the FrozenFoodsBiz Crew to You!

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By John Saulnier, FFB Editorial Director

Season’s Greetings and best wishes for a healthy, happy and prosperous 2020! Since yours truly is in China on a year-end trip at the moment, let me also say: Shengdan Kuaile. That’s Mandarin for Merry Christmas.

This is not the first yuletide holiday I’m spending in China, where along the tidewaters of Hainan Island at the southern end of the PRC it’s been beginning to look a lot of Christmas for some time now – at least in the shopping malls, at grocery stores and in the lobbies and restaurants of hotels. While not an official holiday, the presence of saxophone-playing Santas, colorful reindeer decorations, Christmas trees adorned with tinsel, ornaments, twinkling lights, candy canes, ginger bread house displays and other festive trappings can’t be missed.

What is missing are nativity scenes and other religious symbols of the Christian day of celebration that commemorates the birth of Christ. Nonetheless, the instrumental sounds of Silent Night, Away in a Manger and other traditional carols are heard as background music in shops and on the street, along with Jingle Bells, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and other popular secular tunes. However, as the tropical monsoon marine climate of Hainan is anything but a winter wonderland, I haven’t heard Let it Snow or Baby it’s Cold Outside yet.

In China, whether the holiday is official or unofficial, food will always be at the center of social gatherings, and gift giving on any occasion is a long-established cultural norm. As I will be staying at the Wyndham  Grand Plaza Royale on December 24, a special candlelight Christmas Turkey Dinner (see menu promotion photo above) with all the trimmings including dessert and champagne will be enjoyed for the reasonable price of RMB 188, or about US $27. Given the locale, there will be lots of other East meets West treats to indulge in as well, such as Hainan-style specialty dishes, sushi, sashimi and more seafood galore. Can’t wait to dig in. Ho Ho Ho!

I’m not sure how many previously frozen components will figure into the feast, though the list will likely be limited to turkey (since the meat may well be well be imported), sashimi-grade tuna and ice cream. That said, there is no doubt that the frozen food business is robust in China, as a walk into any supermarket or medium-size grocery store will attest. Numerous freezer cases in multiple aisles are loaded with almost every kind of product imaginable – and them some.

Across China for several weeks now Western-style quick service restaurants and coffee shops, while not necessarily decked out with boughs of holly (Fa la la la la la la la la!), are surely jolly and festooned in decor to adore. KFC and Starbucks are among the chains making merry with festive flavors to savor, as seen by the photos herewith. Incidentally, the PRC fast food sector reportedly generated more than $150 billion in sales during 2017 – up 9.6% over the previous year.

Well, hopefully Santa Claus will find us on Hainan on Christmas Eve. We’ll be sure to leave a bit of eggnog in the hotel minibar for his enjoyment. Maybe a few cookies too.

Meanwhile, “Beijing Santa” has announced a post-Christmas present for the people in the way of reduced tariffs on frozen pork imports aimed at lowering the price of the popular meat staple at local markets in the new year. The cost of pork has soared at the retail level as the outbreak of African swine fever has cause shortages in the domestic market and elsewhere.

According to an announcement made by the Ministry of Finance on December 23, pork will be among 859 products that will see tariffs cut below standard rates in 2020.

Out of this World Countdown has Begun

Come Christmas Day plus two, it will be time for the third Long March-5 rocket blastoff from the Wenchang Space Center – one of four main satellite launch sites in the nation. I am looking forward to checking it out up front and personally with a party of local space exploration enthusiasts.

According to the China Daily newspaper, the carrier rocket flight is “regarded as a highlight of China’s space sector this year,” as the large rocket is the key to nation’s future space endeavors. If this test is 

successful, an upcoming mission will see a carrier rocket launch the nation’s first Mars probe and send the Chang’e-5 lunar probe to the moon to obtain surface samples to send back to Earth. 

“In addition,” notes the China Daily, a modified version of the rocket, Long March-5B, will be used to construct the PRC’s space station.”

I wonder if frozen food will on the orbiting station’s menu? Properly prepared in a state-of-the-art solar-powered zero gravity kitchen, the flavor to savor might well be better than the dehydrated dishes served by NASA to American astronauts way back when. And perhaps a nice pouch of green tea or jasmine cha would be preferred to Tang.

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 , 1….Lift-off to all dear readers and friends of FrozenFoodsBiz for a very Happy New Year! See you in 2020.