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Market access barriers when exporting food products to China: PART 2

There are quite a few barriers and regulatory issues when importing food and beverages into China, such as import duties, sanitary restrictions, registrations and certifications, quality standards, packaging and labeling requirements, all of which can sometimes make it challenging for foreign food and beverage companies to fully exploit the market.

Before you consider exporting your food products to China, it is advisable to explore whether or not there are any trade barriers for your products. Some food products necessitate bilateral protocols to be signed between China and your home country; and moreover may need to comply with other formalities. Possibly there are also duties that may need to be paid when your food products are imported into China.In this respecta lot of information can be found on the EU Market Access Database (

From 1 October 2012, food and beverage exporters are required to register at the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ). Additionally, Chinese importers, distributors and agents must register as a foreign trade operator at the local Ministry of Commerce if they want to import foreign food and beverage products.

The Chinese packaging and labeling requirements are regarded as relatively strict. All imported food and beverages must have a white label attached to individual bottles, cans or packets in simplified Chinese. Labels must be approved by the Chinese Inspection and Quarantine Service (CIQS) before import. Labeling can be done before shipping, but it is also possible to label the products upon arrival at the China port (in a bonded warehouse), for an extra fee payable to the CIQS.

China adopts a national standardization system (GB standards), which is applied nationwide and which unifies the requirements for product safety and quality as well as product labeling. Very often these GB Standards are aligned with international standards (ISO, IEC, etc.) but they can deviate, so it’s important to check the GB standards.

Cross-border e-commerce could be a solution to overcome some of the above-mentioned hurdles. Cross-border sales are defined as the direct import of goods from outside the territory of Mainland China, utilising special pilot channels, and based on the preferential policies of bonded zones. To facilitate this cross-border e-commerce, the Chinese government has implemented a separate tax and duty system, enabling easier access to the market than through regular trade.

To conclude, both from a legal and regulatory point of view as well as taking into account the specific socio-cultural differences and marketing aspects of the Chinese market, it is evident that foreign food companies that want to sell their products in the Chinese market need to be well-prepared and engage with specialized consultancy agencies and/or strategic Chinese partners.

Horsten International has many years of experience in the food and beverages business in China. Please check our website or contact us in case you have any plans to launch your food products in the Chinese market.

Interested to read more? Please check our blog about opportunities in the Chinese food business here

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