BEIJING Dec 24 (Reuters) - China's largest grain trader, COFCO Co. Ltd, has paid 194 million yuan ($23.37 million) to take over a meat joint venture by U.S.-based Smithfield Foods Inc and Belgium's ARTAL Group in China.
The 100 percent stake in Maverick Food Co. Ltd will expand COFCO's meat industry production chain, COFCO said in a statement seen Thursday.
Maverick Food, set up in 2002, produces high quality meat products and frozen bakery goods with markets mainly in major cities such as Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai.
COFCO has been agressively expanding into the meat industry in China, the world's largest pork consumer. It earlier built pig breeding farms with one million pigs each and slaughterhouses in Tianjin and Jiangsu province, it said.
COFCO also holds about a 5 percent share in Smithfield SFD.N, the largest U.S. hog and pork producer.
(Reporting by Niu Shuping and Tom Miles; Editing by Jonathan Hopfner)