Milk output in China is forecast to rise to more than 50m tons by 2020, representing per capita consumption of 40kg, according to the Dairy Association of China.

Total production of milk and milk products reached 23m tons in 2004, more than double the level in 1998, according to Liu Chengguo, president of the Dairy Association of China.

Per capita consumption is rising from a relatively low level in comparison with other countries. In 2004, per capita consumption of milk products stood at only 18kg, one fifth of the world's average level.

"The milk industry is quite promising in China, and will maintain rapid growth for a long time," he said. "By 2020, China will rank third in milk product output in the world."

The development of the dairy industry is considered a high priority for the Chinese government as part of the general restructuring of the nation's agricultural economy and efforts to improve people's health.