Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - International firms worry as China’s food import law kicks in

International firms worry as China’s food import law kicks in

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Wines on display at a store in Beijing. AFP

International firms worry as China’s food import law kicks in

Getting wine, chocolate, and coffee into China could get even harder from January 1, with new import restrictions adding fresh hurdles for foreign companies bringing products into the world’s largest market for food and drink.

Chinese consumers bought $108 billion worth of imported produce in 2020, with that number set to grow for 2021 as imports jumped nearly 30 per cent year-on-year in the first three quarters.

But under laws set to kick in on January 1, all producers of food shipped to China will have to register with the customs authority – yet another barrier for international companies that have long complained of being unfairly penalised.

The extra hurdle was previously required only for products posing potential health risks, such as seafood. But now coffee, alcohol, honey, olive oil, chocolate and several other products will also be scrutinised.

On New Year’s Day, “the import curtain will fall”, Alban Renaud, a China-based lawyer with the firm Adaltys, told AFP.

But he said there were still many unknowns: “Will there be a margin of tolerance? What about the applications that are in progress but not approved? What about those who applied too late?”

One businessman involved in imports told AFP: “You need [certification] otherwise the goods will arrive at ports and you’ll have to pay penalties.”

Companies without the right paperwork will face border hold-ups, he warned.

Importers have complained that the new application details were published late and the website for registering only went online in November, adding that they faced frustrating hurdles trying to register, such as information not being available in English.

Some companies were even given the wrong country code, a Beijing-based diplomat told AFP – such as a Portuguese importer being registered as Spanish.

Food companies and importers have already been battered by control measures included in Beijing’s strict zero-Covid strategy, with China linking the virus to food ever since a Beijing outbreak in 2020 was blamed on imported salmon.

Products entering China are now subject to extra screening and repeated disinfection, with products often banned when a Covid outbreak is discovered at the point of packing overseas.

The World Health Organisation has said the chances of Covid-19 being transported in food are slim.

Just days before the new requirements come into effect, “many companies are still waiting to obtain their authorisation” the EU Chamber of Commerce in Beijing said.

It “urged the Chinese authorities to provide approvals in a timely manner … to enable all qualified companies to make a smooth transition without suffering any disruptions to their food imports”.

The EU has formally requested that Beijing postpone the measure by 18 months, but without success.

Unless the problems are smoothed out soon, China’s stream of imported food could feel the crunch a month down the line, the Beijing-based diplomat told AFP.

China’s customs department did not respond to AFP’s request for comment.

“The first products to arrive in China from exporting countries on January 1 will come from Korea and Japan,” another diplomat noted. “So it will be our friends who will have the privilege of testing the thickness of the wall.”


  • 12th Cambodia int’l film festival to see return of Hollywood star

    Phnom Penh is set to come alive with the magic of cinema as the highly anticipated 12th Cambodia International Film Festival (CIFF) takes centre stage. Boasting an impressive line-up of 188 films from 23 countries, including captivating shorts, feature films, documentaries and animation, the festival promises an

  • Bareknuckle champion wants Kun Khmer fighter

    Dave Leduc, who is the current openweight Lethwei boxing champion in Myanmar, has announced that he will travel to Cambodia this year to challenge SEA Games gold medallist Prum Samnang any time that is convenient, after their planned match later this month in Slovakia was

  • Struggling Battambang artist dreams of staging full-scale gallery exhibition

    Leav Kimchhoth, a 55-year-old artist from Battambang province, is a familiar face to locals and tourists alike on the streets of the riverside in Phnom Penh. The one-armed painter and illustrator often hawks his work near the night market on weekends and public holidays. He

  • Fresh Covid warnings as Thai hospital fills

    A senior health official reminds the public to remain vigilant, as neighbouring countries experience an increase in Covid-19 cases, with the latest surge appearing to be a result of the Omicron XBB.1.5 sub-variant. Or Vandine, secretary of state and spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health,

  • New Law on Taxation comes into effect

    Cambodia has enacted the eagerly-awaited new Law on Taxation, which aims to improve the national tax regime’s compliance with present and future international standards and economic conditions; encourage accountability, effectiveness and transparency in the collection process; and promote investment in the Kingdom. King Norodom

  • Five-year-old Hanuman dances his way into hearts of Cambodia

    A young talent from a new-established settlement has emerged, captivating the online world with his mesmerising performances of the traditional Cambodian monkey dance. Roeun Kakada is a five-year-old prodigy who has taken the social media sphere by storm with his exceptional dance skills and dedication