Agricultural collaboration yields rich dividends amid deepening ties

2024-05-08 10:20:23China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

A visitor selects a bottle of French wine at an import-export exhibition in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia autonomous region, on April 28. (DING GENHOU/FOR CHINA DAILY)

China has seen a robust trend in imports of high-quality agricultural products from France, driven by growing consumer demand and deepening bilateral ties.

France is China's largest agricultural product import market and the second-largest agricultural product trading partner in the European Union.

The import value of agricultural products from France last year was 46.95 billion yuan ($6.5 billion), marking a 50.5 percent increase compared to five years ago, said Lyu Daliang, spokesperson for the General Administration of Customs. In the first quarter of this year, China imported agricultural products worth close to 10 billion yuan from France.

The growth is fueled in part by successful collaborations between Chinese and French companies.

Florian Delmas, president of Andros Group, a century-old food and agricultural enterprise based in France, lauded the fruitful collaboration with Beijing Capital Agribusiness %26Foods Group since the signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in 2019, witnessed by the heads of state of China and France.

Five years on, the joint venture has seen Andros China enjoy significant achievements, including the establishment of two processing factories in Linyi, Shandong province, and the expansion of its factory in Beijing, originally built in 1998.

It has produced a diverse range of high-quality fruit processing products in the fields of food service, industrial and retail sectors, covering more than 170 cities and three factories across China.

"Andros has become (the) benchmark for fruit ingredients and products in China," said Maxence Zeng, general manager of Andros China.

The company has capitalized on the growing trend that European-flavored fruit products are gaining momentum in China. Zeng added: "An increasing number of Chinese consumers are showing a preference for fruit flavors in baked desserts, tea drinks, coffee and dairy products, especially those with European characteristics and charm, such as raspberries and other berries."

He also revealed that their newly launched fruit sorbet has also been widely welcomed by consumers this year in the Chinese market.

Full-value chain strategy

The company emphasized its commitment to implementing a full-value chain strategy, spanning from orchard to spoon experience. It also aims to achieve rural revitalization that benefits agriculture, rural areas, and farmers, said Zeng.

France's agricultural exports to China extend beyond fruit products. The country is a major supplier of aquatic products, dairy and meat to the Chinese market. This, combined with efficient logistics networks, benefits French restaurants in China.

Located in Beijing's Chaoyang district, La Maison Lyonnaise, a French restaurant, experiences a consistent influx of customers every day, necessitating reservations on weekends due to increased demand.

"Many of the key ingredients in our signature dishes are imported from France, such as oysters, snails, foie gras, and red wine," said Wei Shuxuan, a waiter who has been with the restaurant for two years.

This, combined with the French background of both the owner and head chef, plays a key role in the continual acclaim for the authenticity of the flavors and the exceptional quality of the dishes by customers from both China and France, Wei said.

He added that due to oysters being consumed raw, there is a high demand for their freshness, but thanks to the coordinated efforts of the entire "from French farms to Chinese tables" chain, endorsed by leaders from both nations, the oysters can be swiftly transported to the restaurant within a day.

Danone, a French food and beverage company, has also witnessed an increase in demand for high-end bottled water products in China.

According to Danone, the company is seeking to not only bring high-quality French products to China, but also closely cooperate with the Chinese government and business partners, and actively support regenerative agriculture projects and transformations in agricultural practices within the Danone supply chain.

"China is a market of opportunity. It's a huge market. It's a market that is extraordinarily sophisticated. It's a market where we innovate locally in China for China and the rest of the world," said Antoine de Saint-Affrique, CEO of Danone.


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