June 28, 2022

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China: New rules on food imports wreak havoc

Ambiguity and quick application deadline: New law in China on food imports puts pressure on foreign companies inspired by the hunger of the Asian giant.

China is the world’s largest food importer: the country bought $ 108 billion worth of food and beverages from abroad last year.

This number continues to grow: in the first three quarters of 2021 its food imports increased by almost 30% year-on-year.

But last spring, Beijing issued two new mandates to improve product innovation in a country that has long been rocked by health scandals.

At 1 p.m.There is By January 2022, all food producers exporting to China will have to register at customs and obtain an identification number.

Internationally, only “high-risk” products from a health perspective (such as meat, dairy or seafood) are generally subject to special measures.

The new law makes them harder and expands the field to many products that were not previously cared for: honey, olive oil, coffee powder, chocolate bars, liquor …

This is a Chinese uniqueness that is not equal in the world.

“Lack of clarity”

Issue: Application details were released late and the registration site was released online last month, much to the surprise of foreign producers.

The “lack of clarity” process, many of whom were outraged by the anonymity, was questioned by the AFP.

The registration site in the growing version does not provide all the information in English.

Companies were able to register. But the process is complicated and subject to approval. A number failed.

A diplomatic source in Beijing said others had received the wrong country code.

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A Portuguese company is thus referred to as “Spanish” on the customs website.

Many countries and the European Union have appealed to Beijing to postpone the move to give companies time to adapt. In vain.

A few days before the new law went into effect, the EU Chamber of Commerce in Beijing lamented that “many companies are still waiting to receive their accreditation.”

“Import Curtain”

The Federation of Wine and Spirits Exporters (FEVS) in Paris said “this is a matter of great concern”.

France alone has more companies affected by the new law than any other European country, especially in the wine sector.

On Christmas Eve, according to the embassy source, Customs finally decided to recognize “high-risk” products from many countries.

But at 1 p.m.There is In January, “import screen will fall,” warns Alban Renaud, a lawyer for Adaltys law firm in China.

“Will there be a margin of tolerance? What about existing but unfinished practices? What about latecomers?” He asks himself.

Contacted by AFP, Chinese Customs did not respond to a request for information.

The new rules “make the appearance of the product more obvious to Chinese consumers”, delighted that the name of the exporter of spirits is not known until the date of implementation.

According to him, this is “progress” in terms of product innovation for the “not so complicated” process.

But it also adds restrictions to foreign companies that have already been punished by the epidemic.

Export barriers?

In the name of the fight against Govt-19, Beijing is imposing strict controls on imported foodstuffs at its borders (screening tests on food and packaging, proper disinfection).

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These actions are considered “disproportionate” by some experts, resulting in delays and additional costs.

Diplomatic sources suspect that food import problems will be expected from February.

China has been particularly vulnerable to the cold chain since traces of the virus were discovered on the cutting board of salmon imported into the Beijing market last year.

However, the hypothetical hypothesis on the origin of the COVID-19 epidemic in China has been challenged by the WHO.

“Products that do not meet the (health) standards will be rejected,” an official of the administration overseeing the food industry stressed on Wednesday.

Under the guise of the fight against the epidemic, some observers want to see what the “new barriers to exports” are.