China's food producers are facing increased access certification barriers as overseas markets try to protect their own industries, putting pressure on Chinese exporters and squeezing their profits, business insiders said.
Complicated attestation and strict access requests, including long approval periods and high fees, are being imposed on Chinese food products in foreign markets, Wang Hongyu, CEO of Shandong Province-based food producer Xiwang Group, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
"As different countries have various standards for certification such as by production mode, we must comply with diverse standards to bring our products into those markets," Wang noted.
Wang said that his company mainly exports sugar to European countries, the US and elsewhere in Asia such as India, Indonesia and Malaysia.
"It would take one to two years to get certificates in the EU and the cost for a permit, which may be hundreds of thousands of yuan, is not cheap," he said. "The overseas markets set those thresholds to protect their own industries."
Recently, many foreign markets have required Chinese food producers to pass attestation procedures conducted by overseas organizations before they enter the relevant markets, the Economic Information Daily reported Tuesday, citing Chen Jixin of the Ningbo Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau, under the administration of East China's Zhejiang Province.
About 90 percent of the canned food producers in Zhejiang and East China's Jiangsu Province are required to be certified by foreign institutions and the producers hold at least four certificates, Chen was quoted as saying in the report.
The complicated certification procedures and high fees put pressure on small companies by cutting their profits, according to business insiders.
Chen Hai'ou, president of Kashgar Mufeng Biotechnology Co in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, told the Global Times on Tuesday that food export certifications cost a lot and the procedures are complicated.
"We are preparing to export yak meat, lamb and processed cooked food to the European markets, where the examination standards are quite strict. We have been involved in the relevant procedures for almost a year," Chen said.
It's preferable for Chinese food producers to obtain certificates before they try to access overseas markets, said Ma Wenfeng, a senior analyst at Beijing Orient Agribusiness Consultant.
"Food security attestation is the primary request from foreign markets, and many other certifications of such aspects as packing, labels and ingredients are also needed," Ma told the Global Times on Tuesday.
Foreign countries are concerned about environmental factors related to food products, and they require the levels of harmful substances to be clearly certified, Ma noted.
Such high thresholds reflect that foreign markets endeavor to protect their economic interests and Chinese food exporters are expected to solve these problems and enhance supervision of food production to reach qualified international standards, according to experts.
"We will adjust our production mode or other elements based on the requests from foreign markets. If we fail to do that, our products will be shut out. This is the biggest challenge for us in going global," Wang said.
Chinese authorities should guide domestic food producers to follow advanced international standards to make and process their products, and they should also continue to enhance food quality management levels to address challenges arising from certification, experts noted.
"Chinese authorities are expected to further cooperate with their overseas counterparts, aiming to make certification carried out in China acceptable in the global markets," remarked Ma.
In that way, domestic food producers could save time and money in entering foreign markets, he said.
Ma said that Chinese attestation organizations fall short of international advanced levels, and China is expected to set up certification bodies that have global influence to offer more professional services to domestic food exporters.
China's food-processing industry only began to grow in the past 10 to 20 years, while the sector's situation in foreign markets is the result of developments and improvements over decades or even a century, according to Wang, who said that his foreign clients often recommended several organizations for his company to choose for certification.