Japan’s Itochu is eyeing a stronger foothold in China after agreeing to take a 33% stake in Canadian pork processing group HyLife.

Itochu said late last week it has acquired a 33.4% stake in Manitoba-based HyLife for JPY5bn (US$56m). HyLife is one of Canada’s leading pork producers, processing 1.4m pigs annually. It also has genetics labs.

The Canadian group already supplies speciality pork products to Japan, but Itochu said it is particularly keen to use its existing distribution network to supply more HyLife meat in China.

Itochu added that it will work with its “sigifnicant partner”, Longda Foodstuff Group, to expand HyLife’s presence in China.

In a separate deal, Itochu is already awaing clearance from China’s Ministry of Commerce to acquire Dole Food Co’s Asian fresh and global packaged food businesses.