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China is your next food export market – here is why

Over 1.3 billion people call China home. As the world’s largest country, China’s food and beverage sector is the biggest in the world. Imports total in the billions each year – and opportunities for exporters are growing steadily.

Why should you make China your next food and drinks exports destination? Here are four big reasons. 

Chinese food import values are staggering

$482.2 billion. That was the value of Chinese food and beverage imports in 2014 (the most up to date data available at the time of writing). With figures like that, it is hard to pinpoint another reason why China should be a priority market for food exporters.

Why such volumes? Simple. China’s population comes close to dwarfing that of 99% of countries across the globe. People need to eat, and domestic production levels cannot keep up with demand. As such, China has no option to rely on food imports at present – leading to nearly half a trillion dollars in imports each year.

Exporters can rely on some big wins in China’s food and drinks sector, especially as a rising middle class wants more and more foreign foodstuffs on its plates. 

China’s rising middle class demands more food imports

For hundreds of years, much of China’s population has been largely agrarian, living and working in the vast countryside. With the nation’s stunning 21st century economic growth, China’s urban and middle class population is on the rise. 

22% of China’s monumental population is set to join the middle class by 2022. With 109 million current members, its consumer class already outnumbers the United States’. In real terms, wages have risen 400% in China since 2000, meaning more money can be spent on a variety of food product traditionally not on Chinese menus. 

An expanding consumer base (China’s population is predicted by the UN to hit over 1.4 billion by 2030) points towards a greater middle class. Of course, much of this is related to China’s economic performance. With a GDP of $22 trillion by 2030 estimated by the US Department of Agriculture, Chinese wallets are likely to remain fat well into the near future and beyond.

More money is diversifying Chinese consumers’ tastes

As mentioned above, deeper Chinese pockets have given rise to increased demand for diverse tastes. Traditionally, Chinese diets have remained firmly grained based, which befits its prior agrarian history. Since then, consumption of other food product groups has risen over the past decade. 

Appetites are increasingly moving away from purely grain and vegetable based diets. Chinese consumers are now eating more dairy products, eggs, meat and seafood than ever before. Take seafood as an example. Consumption of this product group will reach 35.9 kilograms per person by 2020, with some regions already exceeding 40 kilograms each. 

Rising wages are opening up options for China’s consumers. Of course, this is not the only reason why imports are such a vital lifeline for the Chinese food industry…

Environmental factors stymying domestic food production

With China’s tastes broadening, its farmers are struggling to feed the nation’s increasingly adventurous population. A lack of arable land is also hampering domestic producers’ efforts to keep the populous fed.

Even being one of the world’s largest countries by area is not enough. China only holds 20 acres of arable land per 100 people. And, according to official news source Xinhua, more than 40% of this land has degraded since 2014. China’s seas, usually teeming with life, are starting to show signs of overfishing and pollution, lowering catch sizes.

What is bad for China’s food and drink producers plays right into the hands of international players. In order to satiate China’s growing appetite, the nation will have to continue relying on imported goods to feed the population.

China: a land of food and drink opportunity

China holds great promise for international food and drink exporters. A growing, increasingly cash-rich population, degrading domestic production capabilities, and massive import volumes point towards a lucrative future for those willing to make the leap.


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