Daily Management Review

Food And Beverage Manufacturers Face Issues With New Import Rules Of China


Food And Beverage Manufacturers Face Issues With New Import Rules Of China
Many European coffee brands, including Irish whiskey and Belgian chocolate, are struggling to comply with Chinese food and beverage regulations. They fear that their products will not be allowed to enter China's huge market due to a Jan. 1 deadline.
China's customs authorities published new food safety regulations in April. These rules stipulate that all foreign food processing, storage and manufacturing facilities must be registered by the end of the year to allow their products to enter China.
However, detailed instructions on how to obtain the registration codes were not available until October. Last month however, a website was launched for companies that are allowed to self-register.
"We're heading for major disruptions after Jan. 1," said a Beijing-based diplomat from a European country who is assisting food producers with the new measures.
Food imports into China have risen sharply in recent years, owing to rising demand from the country's vast middle class. According to the US Department of Agriculture, they were valued $89 billion in 2019, making China the world's sixth largest food importer. For years, China has attempted to establish new restrictions governing food imports, but exporters have objected.
The General Administration of Customs of China (GACC), which is in charge of enforcing the current version of the laws, has offered no explanation for why all items, including those considered low-risk like wine, wheat, and olive oil, are subject to the regulations.
Experts believe it's part of a larger attempt to better manage the vast amounts of food arriving at Chinese ports, and to shift responsibility for food safety from the government to the producers.
GACC stated in a statement to Reuters that it solicited public feedback on the guidelines before April.
It has "fully considered and actively accepted reasonable suggestions" and has strictly followed WTO agreements on implementing food safety standards," according to the statement, which also stated that it has answered to corporate queries.
According to Damien Plan, agriculture counsellor at the European Union Delegation in Beijing, the European Union has issued four letters to Customs this year demanding more clarity and time for implementation.
According to the European diplomat, GACC decided last week that implementation should only apply to items manufactured on or after Jan. 1, thereby giving a delay for products previously transported, though it has not yet released an official announcement.
Nonetheless, numerous diplomats and exporters complained the laws acted as a trade barrier for foreign goods.
"We have never had anything this draconian out of China," said Andy Anderson, executive director of the Western United States Agricultural Trade Association (WUSATA), a trade group that promotes U.S. food exports.
The rules were described as a "non-tariff trade barrier" by him.
Due to coronavirus screening and sterilization methods, food, particularly frozen and chilled food, has already experienced significant disruptions crossing Customs in China in the last year.
Unroasted coffee beans, cooking oil, milled grains, and nuts are among 14 new high-risk food types that must be enrolled by the end of October by the exporting countries' food authorities.
A website that started in November but hasn't always operated allows facilities that make low-risk meals to register.
"The Chinese system is working now but the English one is on a trial version," said Li Xiang, business development manager at Chemical Inspection and Regulation Services Ltd (CIRS) Europe, which is helping companies with the registration process.