• How to Export Meat Products into China: The Ultimate Guide

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    Many foreigners want to export meat products to China, it’s not strange as meat products is in big demand, and some of the most imported products from overseas.

    For example, imports of beef and veal increased more than 10 times(!) between 2012-2017, this number just speaks for itself. But I think we can both agree that it’s not easy to know where to start, with the wanting information out there.

    Even if Europeans and Aussie’s have exported beef for years, China has lifted sanctions on beef imports from the US, that was put in place since 2003.

    So: the race for American beef exporters, to grasp market shares in China, have just started.

    Import regulations are stricter for meat products

    As meat products are perishable and consumed by humans, stricter import regulations and packaging requirements apply.

    It’s important that you study the complete exporting procedure beforehand, to avoid costly and time consuming mistakes.

    Therefore, I’ve written this complete guide that helps you to learn all the important information you need to know before exporting meat products into China.

    What meat products are in big demand in China?

    First, it’s good that you get a general knowledge of the local demand of meat products.

    Below I’ve included the domestic demand for each meat product:

    • Pork: 60-65%
    • Poultry: 20-25%
    • Beef: Around 10%

    Yes, the Chinese are big consumers of pork. Even if non-meat products, fish and seafood will become more popular over the years, pork is by far the biggest meat product in demand at the moment.

    Interestingly, China is the largest producer of pork in the world and even has a pork reserve, similar to Fort Knox in the US.

    So does this leave you with the only option to export pork? No.

    China is a big market and as people get wealthier, consumption of beef and other more expensive meat products will increase as well.


    Procedure when preparing for meat exports to China

    It’s crucial that you understand the local standards and export process well in advance, before you start exporting to China.

    This is also the case if you hire an agent to help you through parts of the process, as they have obligations to handle a lot of registrations and paperwork.

    Below I’ve made a step-by-step guide showing the complete process when exporting meat products into China.

    1. Confirm that China allows imports of the specific meat product from your country of manufacture

    Responsibility: Exporter

    First of all, you need to confirm that you’re eligible to export food products from the country where your products are manufactured.

    China banned imports of beef from the US for almost 15 years, due to a case of mad cow disease that occurred in 2003.

    Your country of manufacture needs to establish a protocol with the Chinese government, before exports can take place.

    2a. Business registration with AQSIQ

    Responsibility: Exporter

    As of 2015, you need to register your company at with AQSIQ. Keep in mind that if you export health food and infant formula, you also need to register your formula at CFDA (China Food & Drug Administration).

    When your application is approved, AQSIQ will list your company as eligible to export food products into China.

    First, you need to submit an application for Food Exporters, through the AQSIQ’s registration system. You’ll also be required to submit a number of documents, for example test reports that prove you comply with the specific GB standards.

    After you’ve submitted the application, you’ll receive a registration number from AQSIQ, so that you can declare your goods at the Chinese customs.

    Without a registration number, you won’t be able to pass through the customs.

    To register your products for exports at AQSIQ, you also need to know what HS codes your products have (HS stands for Harmonized System codes and are used to classify products traded in countries.

    HS codes are not only used in China but internationally.

    HS codes for meat products

    The common HS codes used to classify meat products are:

    • 1601: Sausages and similar, of meat, offal or blood: Food preparations
    • 1602: Other prepared or preserved meat, offal or blood
    • 0201: Bovine animals: Fresh or chilled
    • 0202: Bovine animals: Frozen
    • 0203: Swine: Fresh, chilled or frozen
    • 0204: Meat of sheep or goats: Fresh, chilled or frozen
    • 0205: Meat of horses, asses, mules and hinnies: Fresh, chilled or frozen
    • 0207: Meat and edible offal of poultry: Fresh, chilled or frozen
    • 0208: Other meat and edible offal: Fresh, chilled or frozen
    • 0210: Meat and meat offal that are salted, in brine, dried or smoked
    • 0206: Offal of bovine, swine, goats, sheep, horses, mules, hinnies or asses: Fresh, chilled or frozen

    Keep in mind that beef needs to be trackable to the birth farm. Cattle needs to be less than 30 months of age.

    What documents do I need to provide when registering at AQSIQ?

    To register at AQSIQ, you need to provide the following documents:

    a. Documents about your company

    b. The filled in application form

    c. Meat Test Reports, Health Certificates and other documents if required for your specific products

    d. License of the export country

    AQSIQ application form and costs

    You can find the application form on AQSIQ’s website.

    The application fee is USD 230 and can be paid with credit card, when making the registration.

    How long time does it take to get registered?

    You need to wait 3-4 days until your registration is completed.

    How long will my registration be valid for?

    You’ll be eligible to export your food products for a period of up to 3 years.

    What happens if I want to export additional meat products?

    If you want to export other food products, a new inspection will be required to confirm that you comply with local regulations.

    2b. Registering with the Filing Management System

    Responsibility: Exporter

    You also need to Request a document that proves you’re registered at AQSIQ. You can do this online by simply registering at the Filing Management System.

    This should be done by both you and the importer in China, mainly for tracking purposes.

    2c. Business Registration at SAIC

    Responsibility: Chinese importer

    Your Chinese importer is required to make a business registration, proving that they are allowed to start importing food products from overseas.

    The registration is done at SAIC (State Administration for Industry and Commerce).

    2d. Getting an import and export license

    Responsibility: Chinese importer

    Your importer should obtain a document from MOFCOM, showing that the company is listed as an import/export company.

    2e. Register at the Chinese customs

    Responsibility: Chinese importer

    The same as it goes in Western countries, it’s the importer’s responsibility to register at the customs, in China referred to as GAC (the General Administration of Customs).

    2f. Automatic Import License

    Responsibility: Chinese importer

    You need to provide a document that shows information about each goods that will be imported to China. The document is provided to MOFCOM (the Ministry of Commerce).

    Confirm with your importer/agent whether your products need an Automatic Import License, before you start exporting.

    3. Product testing in a Chinese laboratory

    Before you can start selling your products in China, you first need to get your product tested in a Chinese laboratory and get the relevant documentation needed.

    These documents will be verified when your products arrive in China.

    You can contact AQSIQ directly and let them handle the testing. But there are also a number of other specialized companies who can manage the testing on your behalf.

    Some examples are:

    • Asiainspection.com
    • Asiaqualitycontrol.com
    • CIRS

    Sending test samples to China

    Be sure to follow the below guidelines when sending test samples to China:

    a. Confirm with the test company how many samples you need to provide

    b. Samples shall be sent in sealed packaging

    c. The packaging should not leak or break easily. If the packaging is broken, you’ll need to send new test samples

    d. You need to provide a Chain of Custody (CoC) for tracking purposes. This means that you need to provide evidences how the product have been handled and transferred between different persons and entities

    e. The products should be refrigerated with, for example, ice packs (dry ice can be used if instructed by the analyzing company). Contact the beneficiary in China once you’ve shipped the package and inform them that the package needs to be treated as food products

    As informed in my separate article about what products are covered under CIQ, dry ice is hazardous and need permission for imports

    f. Mark the package clearly with the name of your product. Contact the beneficiary in China once you’ve shipped the package and inform them that the package needs to be treated as food products

    4. Labeling requirements for meat products

    Food products are generally subject to stricter import and labeling requirements, as these products are consumed by humans (including babies and elders).

    Epidemics and diseases often derive from food products, just look at SARS that broke out in Guangdong in 2004, killing hundreds of people. Or the mad cow disease, that left the US unable to export beef to China for years.

    Label information required on the exterior packaging (complete goods)

    The following information is usually required on the outer label when exporting meat products to China.

    • Product name
    • Country of origin
    • Registration number at AQSIQ
    • Manufacturing date
    • Shelf life
    • Instructions about storage (including temperatures)
    • To which country the products will be sent
    • Net weight
    • Meat Inspection legend
    • Your company name and address
    • Batch number
    • Packaging specification

    Labeling information required on the interior packaging (smaller boxes)

    The following information is required for the label on the inner packaging:

    • Product name
    • Package specification
    • Country of origin
    • Country of destination
    • Registration number at AQSIQ
    • Batch number

    5. How to package your meat products

    It’s important that you package your meat products in the most optimal way to pass CIQ inspections, to make sure that the products are refrigerated and to save space.

    As meat is generally frozen when exported to China, you need to use the right packaging method, isolation and coolers.

    Some key points to consider are:

    a. Use an insulated container, preferably a urethane container (the walls should be at least 5 cm)

    b. Use dry ice. Confirm which shipping companies that allow you to use dry ice. They can also give you advice how to pack the products

    c. Use plastic wrap around the food products and pack tightly with the dry ice

    d. Fill up with Styrofoam where needed

    6. Shipping your meat products

    For meat products, the preferable choice is to use a reefer container, that can keep temperatures at everything from -65 to +40 degrees Celsius.

    Reefer containers are available for both sea freight and air freight, if you want to know more about reefer containers, you can watch this introduction video.

    7. CIQ inspection of meat products

    Before you’re able to clear your goods at the customs, you need to let CIQ do an inspection.

    Your meat products should be imported through appointed CIQ offices, these are often located close to harbors and airports.

    The products should be packed in a way so that it’s easy for CIQ to check, inspect and put your products into quarantine if needed.

    If your products pass the test, the local CIQ office will submit a certificate, allowing you to produce and sell your products on the Chinese market.

    If not, CIQ will send back or demolish the products. For minor issues (not dangerous to environmental protection, safety or health), on-site treatment is allowed followed by a new inspection.

    Keep in mind that you need to keep track of your export history, dating back 2 years.

    8. China customs clearance

    To clear your goods, you need to prepare the following documents in advance:

    • An invoice
    • A packing list
    • Certificate of Origin
    • Bill of lading
    • Trade contract with the importer
    • A health certificate

    Keep in mind that you also need to inform AQSIQ in advance when you make a shipment, as they need to keep track of all imports of meat products.

    Regulations (GB standards) for meat products imported into China

    Below, I’ve included the most common GB-standards (import regulations) that you normally need to comply with:

    a. GB 7718-2011 – General Rules for the Labelling of Prepackaged Foods

    b. GB 2707-2005 – Hygienic Standard for Fresh (Frozen) Meat of Livestock

    c. GB/T 17238-2008 – Hygienic practice for meat processing establishments

    d. GB 16869-2005 – Fresh and Frozen Pork Muscle Cuts Standard

    e. GB 9959-2-2001 – Fresh and Frozen Poultry Product Standard

    f. GB 16869-2000 – Fresh and Frozen Beef Cuts Standard

    g. GB 16869-2005 – Poultry National Standard

    h. GB/T 20094-2006 – National Food Safety Standards for Uses of Food Additives

    Be sure to confirm whether your specific products need to meet any other additional standards.

    GB standards for labeling of meat products imported into China

    Pre-packaged food should have labels that comply with GB7718-2004 (the General Standard for the Labeling of Pre-packaged food).

    Pre-packaged food for special dietary uses need to comply with GB13432-2013 (the General Standard for the Labeling of Pre-packaged food for Special Dietary Uses).

    Import duty for meat products

    As of December 2017, the Chinese government has reduced the import duty from 15% to 8% for animal meat.

    This clearly shows that China wants to import more meat and the government, reducing the competition from local producers.

    Can I sell meat online in China?

    The direct answer to this question is: Yes.

    Smithfields is the biggest pork producer in the world and now aims at Chinese customers on the Chinese e-Commerce platform JD (Jingdong).

    The imports of meat increased 15 fold from 2010 to 2015, and it won’t decline.

    If you’re interested in selling meat products online in China, I recommend you to read our separate guide to learn more about Tmall Global, one of the biggest e-Commerce platforms in China.

    Are there any trade shows for finding buyers in the meat industry?

    If you plan to export food products into China, it can be a wise choice one or more meat fairs, to learn more about the local market, regulations and building up a network.

    Let’s have a look at some of the biggest meat fairs that are held in China on an annual basis.

    Meat Expo China

    Meat Expo China is one of the biggest meat fairs in China and attracts thousands of visitors each year. The fair is held in Changsha, Hunan province.

    Products on display are:

    • Meat (beef, pork, veal, game and lamb)
    • Sausages, ham, bacon, canned meat
    • Poultry products (chicken and turkey for example)
    • Seafood
    • Frozen food

    China International Meat Industry Exhibition

    Another big meat fair is CIMIE, held in the capital, Beijing.

    The fair has been held for 15 years and attracted more than 300.000 visitors in total.

    Food Hospitality World

    Food hospitality world is one of the biggest food fairs in China with a wide range of products on display, including meat.

    The fair is held in Guangzhou (Guangdong province) and attracts traders in thousands.


    Meat is in a great demand in China and exporters can boost sales significantly by targeting this market.

    The most popular meat product is pork, followed by poultry and beef. As the Chinese middle class grows and people move to bigger cities, we’ll see a bigger demand of seafood, fish and non-meat products in the coming 10 years.

    Due to the fact that food is consumed by humans, you’re subject to more strict requirements when it comes to import regulations, labelling of your products and packaging.

    So: before you export food to China, it’s important that you are aware of the regulations that apply to your specific products. Otherwise, your products can get sent back, seized or demolished.

    Keep in mind that it’s also crucial for you to understand the complete process when exporting meat, as there are obligations both on your side and the Chinese importer’s side (for business registrations for example).

    If you plan to export to China, you should read this complete article, to learn all the important information you need to know.

    I also recommend you to read my separate guide if you want to know how foreigners can export food products into China.

    How can you help me take the next step?

    Do you need help with CIQ, CCC or setting up your first Tmall store? We work with leading consultants and service providers – that can help you through every part of the process:

    a. CIQ, CCC, labeling and laboratory testing

    b. Shipping and customs

    c. Selling on Tmall, JD Worldwide & other platforms

    d. Finding retailers and distributors for your products

    What are you waiting for? Click here to request a free quotation.

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  • 7 Responses to “How to Export Meat Products into China: The Ultimate Guide

    1. Deon at 1:42 pm

      Hi Marcus,

      Thank you for all the great information. Do you know what the position for South African meat/ dried meat products with China would be?

      1. Marcus Sohlberg at 11:00 am

        Hi Deon,

        Sorry, but I cannot reply to this question.

    2. Alvin at 1:06 pm

      Hi! I am from Singapore and I am keen to work with a Thai factory to export frozen chicken to China. Do you provide services to help with the process?

      1. Marcus Sohlberg at 11:01 am

        Hi Alvin,

        We can help you to find distribution companies in China, but not to connect you with a Thai factory.

    3. Udechukwu at 4:15 pm

      Is a previlage to come across this text… hope I can export as well soon from Nigeria

    4. Levi Neria Nimrod at 5:48 am

      good day,
      please contact me on wechat nimilevi

    5. Michael at 5:43 am

      who have pork on hands that can sell to China please contact me wechat: 13809628260

      or email me magic_ma@hotmail.com i need 100 ton more per month.

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