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China, Japan work on food trade

1 March 2009 1,515 views No Comment

Japan used to be the biggest export destination for Chinese food products. But 2008 saw significant slide in trade volume due to a series of food safety incidents. The two sides are working on how to turn things around.

China exported food products worth 6-and-a-half billion US dollars in 2008 to Japan, an 11 percent drop from the year before. Some products fell more than 50 percent.

Over 40 percent of China’s food exports used to go to its neighbor, and this fell to 20 percent, the lowest in decades.

Japan used to be the biggest export destination for Chinese food products.
Japan used to be the biggest export destination for Chinese
food products.

China acknowledges food safety issues like “poisoned dumplings” and infant formula were the major factors.

On top of all that came the global financial crisis.

Food traders of both sides have gathered in Beijing to address the sliding market.

Ryuichi Isaka, Director of Commerce, Seven Eleven Japan, says, “we import prepared food like eel and chicken barbecues. We used to import 10 million sets of eel from China but last year we imported no eel at all. We suffered losses and we very much want to resume trading.”

Exporters and importers say that work must be done at three levels. The first is an information platform for importer and consumers to understand the food production and logistics procedures. The second is for Japanese importers to join Chinese food producers to upgrade production facilities. The third is to standardize and integrate purchase of food additives.

Huo Jianguo, chairman of CCCFNA, says, “we plan to buy the additives in a united group and abolish the old ways where everyone finds additive producers on their own. In this way, we can find really good and responsible additive producers and guarantee product quality and efficiency. I believe this will give a big leg up to our food quality and safety. In fact we’ve already started to carry out the plan.”

Japanese importers say most of Chinese food exports are safe and of high quality. They hope the Chinese government will strengthen supervision and prevent any future incidents. They say when consumer confidence is restored, the food trade will revive.

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