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China displaces America as world’s most attractive food export market

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Related tags Greenhouse gas International trade Agriculture

China is now the most attractive export market for food and beverage companies, according to an analysis by Deloitte and a Spanish business school that assesses destinations with the best business and export opportunities.

The country’s top ranking means that America, the erstwhile leader, has now dropped to second place in the list, followed by Germany, which maintains its status as the most attractive European destination, in third place out of 82 international export destinations.

Jaume Llopis and Júlia Gifra, academics at the University of Navarra’s IESE Business School, single out China’s fast-growing middle class, predicted growth in spending and urban expansion for its growing status as a desirable importer.

The authors also highlight the fact that China boasts a large number of cities with populations that are even larger than those of many countries. Its top five urban areas each have over 10m inhabitants, while Shanghai alone has a population of 23m.

While America has been relegated from top place, it still remains a top major importer of food and beverage, and is one of the top ten countries for ease of doing business, according to the report.

The study also lauds Germany for its high spending on imported food and beverages. This, it says, is helped along by its expansive middle class, which consists of 82% of all households, and the country’s stable legal framework.

New to this year’s ranking is Singapore, which has greatly improved legal conditions for export, in spite of its relatively small population. On the other hand, Brazil and Russia have lost their attractiveness due to economic crises and geopolitical tensions.

When it comes to food export opportunities, China has become the market of choice for products like bread and cereals, the authors note, while the US is top exporter for fish, fruit and vegetables.

Europe keeps its place as the most attractive continent for exporting, with 10 countries in rated in the study’s top 20. 

Asia, it says, is also attractive for exporting, due to not only China’s market potential, but also to India and Japan featuring in the top 10, with Hong Kong in 11th and South Korea in 17th place.

Japan is a key importer of meat, while India opts for oil and sugar products, it adds.

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China’s new dietary guidelines advise lower meat consumption

Beijing is now encouraging Chinese consumers to reduce their meat and egg intake through new dietary guidelines that are also designed to help the environment.


According to the National Health and Family Planning Commission, the recommendations are part of a campaign to combat diabetes and cardiovascular diseases while placing emphasis on food security amid limited production areas.

To stem an alarming increase in obesity and non-communicable diseases, public health officials have set out to moderate the role of meat and dairy in the nation’s diet.

The guidelines advise citizens to eat a maximum of 75g of meat and poultry each day, with a combined limit of 200g meat, poultry, fish and dairy. 

This corresponds to a daily reduction of 100g per day, according to estimates by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.

Aside from nutritionists, environmentalists have also welcomed the guidelines at a time when the land, water and energy required to raise animals is in short supply.

Earlier this year, Oxford researchers published a paper which suggested that a global shift to a more plant-based diet could cut food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 29-70% depending on the willingness of consumers to eat less meat.

If China’s population were to follow the new guidelines, it could cut greenhouse gas emissions by 1.5% of the global total, according to a report by WildAid, an ecological NGO, quoted by the Washington Post​. 

China’s livestock alone produces nearly 5bn tonnes of waste annually, while its runoff is the biggest source of water pollution in the country. 

According to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers posits, meat and dairy consumption, if continued at the current rate, “will place enormous burdens on an already challenged domestic food system and have significant ramification on international trade in agriculture​”.

In 2015, China's beef and pork imports alone were valued at US$1.35bn and US$1.2bn respectively.

C&C continues beer expansion in China with Tennent’s distribution deal

C&C Group has signed its fourth strategic partnership in recent months with a new distribution agreement with Vandergeeten to distribute its Tennent’s portfolio in China. 


For the next three years, Vandergeeten will have the right to distribute Tennent’s products, beginning with its 1885 Lager, Stout, Whisky Oak Aged Beer, Scotch Ale and Extra beers in bars and retailers across China.

This is a fantastic opportunity for C&C Group to work in partnership with a well-established company in China with a very strong reputation in the drinks business​,” said Joris Brams, managing director of the Irish beer and cider major’s international division. 

The market for imported premium beers in China has enjoyed stellar growth over the last five years and this partnership with Vandergeeten will ensure that the Tennent’s brand portfolio is well positioned for long-term growth in China.​” 

C&C manufacturers Bulmers and Magners ciders and distributes a number of beers in the British Isles, primarily for AB InBev.

With offices in four Chinese metros, as well as regional bases across the country, Vandergeeten has been active in distributing food and beverages from Belgium and Western Europe into China for two decades.

Working with C&C is an exciting opportunity for us to even further diversify our wide range of premium European beers. We’re confident that in cooperation with C&C, we can develop Tennent’s into a popular and successful brand enjoyed by customers all throughout the country,​” said Yu Xiaoning, Vandergeeten’s chief executive.

Related topics Markets Supply chain China East Asia

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