Smithfield Foods will enter into an agreement with Artal Holland B.V., creating a joint venture in AFG Co. Ltd., located in the Guangdong Province of China. The company produces, sells and distributes processed meat products to retail and foodservice customers in China under the Maverick and Haslett brands. The company has processed-meat revenues of $8.5 million.

"The opportunity to combine our processed meats expertise with Artal's knowledge and experience in marketing and distributing branded food products in China was irresistible," says Joseph Luter, chief executive officer, Smithfield Foods. "These combined strengths, along with China's admittance into the World Trade Organization, and the continued development of its market economy, makes China an exciting growth opportunity for Smithfield Foods."

"Our strategies for growing the business will be similar to those that drove Artal's Mankattan and Country Road brands to the No. 1 position in branded bread products. Artal now distributes bread products to about 6,000 retail, foodservice and school locations," says Robert Sharpe, president of Smithfield's international operations. "This assures our ability to grow processed meats distribution from the current level of 300 locations."

Smithfield Press Release