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World Products on Chinese Tables

2019-11-29 13:30:00 Source:China Today Author:MA LI
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ON the morning of November 7, a Shanghai resident Su Meijin visited the food and agricultural products exhibition area of the second China International Import Expo (CIIE). She had a specific objective in mind and headed streight over to the area that was selling imported meat. After tasting what was on offer, she decided to go for the Angus beef from Australia. “My family likes to eat beef, and since CIIE is held in Shanghai, it gives us more choices for imported beef,” said Su.

The fresh produce exhibition area had no shortage of variety, with beef and fresh fruit from Australia, ham from Spain, salmon from Norway, and lobster from New Zealand. Those dazzling array of options attracted large numbers of commercial buyers and private customers.

Thanks to the CIIE, a growing number of international products are served on the dining tables of ordinary Chinese.

                    

                                                                            Seafood on display at the Global Food Integration and Distribution Platform at the CIIE. 

Popularity of Australian Produce

“We have our own breeding and processing bases for agricultural products as well as exclusive logistics and ports. Therefore, fresh beef can be delivered to China within 48 hours, and can be delivered to ordinary consumers in 72 hours,” said Ye Xiaogang, secretary-general of the Australia China Agribusiness Association.

In recent years, with the continuous improvement of living standards, beef has become the first choice for many Chinese people. “From July to October this year, China has been the largest importer of Australian beef,” said Ye. “In light of the current growth rate, the trade volume is likely to exceed 30,000 tons in the near future. With the exception of the U.S., such an export volume is unprecedented for all other countries.”

Swan Wine Group from Australia was attending the CIIE for the second time. Unlike last year, this year it had its own exhibition stand, where a wide range of wine exhibits gave buyers and consumers more choices.

“With the promotion of the CIIE and the help of the Chinese government, we exported eight million bottles of wine to China last year. China has become the largest export destination for our company,” said Li Dong, general marketing manager of the company. Owing to Australia’s benignant natural environment and climate, the raw materials are not affected by pests and diseases throughout the year, and the grape vines are more than 35 years old, with some as old as 70. The root system can be as deep as 60 meters or more, which makes it easy to extract various minerals and microorganisms in the soil, adding to the taste of the finished product. In addition, handmade brewing improves the quality of the wine. All these make the Swan wine exceptionally popular in China.

According to Ye, there is also another reason which explains why Chinese consumers like Australian wine. The style of Australian wine brewing makes the taste more suitable for the palates of Chinese consumers.

In addition to beef and wine, Australia’s grains, fruits and vegetables have also become part of the daily life of Chinese consumers via the CIIE. “Last year, four of our companies participated in the exhibition, with an area of 81 square meters. This year, 12 companies participated in the exhibition, and the area grew to 500 square meters. Next year, the exhibitors will definitely exceed 20, and we will reserve 1,000 square meters of exhibition area,” said Ye. “China’s expanding open-door policy has reassured many foreign investors, offering us more opportunities to enter the Chinese market. This is the premise of cooperation and mutual benefits,” Ye indicated.

                    

                                                                                        The ribbon-cutting ceremony of Super Foods Peru. 

Rapid Transit of Seafood

“Because of work, I have to stay in Norway for two months every year. Salmon is the most common food there,” said Zhang Hao, a 45-year-old Shanghai resident, who visited the CIIE to specifically sample the salmon. In front of the busy Nordlaks booth from Norway, Zhang stood in line for 10 minutes, and the familiar taste reminded him of his time in the Scandinavian country. “The taste [of the salmon I sampled here] is no different, and it is very fresh,” he said.

Nordlaks is located within the Arctic Circle, an area which is not only famous for its breathtaking scenery, but also an unparalleled fishing environment, famous for fresh salmon and trout.

“To ensure that salmon in the Arctic Sea can be safely and freshly delivered to China, all of our products are packaged in cold chain from the origin to the destination,” said Li Zhiming, sales executive of Nordlaks in Shanghai. According to Li, the traditional freezing method easily produces ice crystals in fish cells. In the unfreezing process, the cell membranes of fish meat are easily destroyed and the fibrous tissue is cut. To avoid this, the salmon produced by Nordlaks is quickly frozen by using a rapid ultralow temperature method. Using this method, the fish after thawing can achieve the optimum fresh taste.

According to Li, salmon from Norway is favored by Shanghai consumers. Each month about 5,000 boxes of salmon are shipped to Shanghai, and the reasonable price makes it popular with local people.

Next to the Nordlaks stand, spiny lobster from New Zealand, abalone from Australia, and king crab from Russia also attracted the attention of the crowd. Many of these large and exotic seafoods are new to Chinese people. “I really like eating lobster, but it is the first time I have seen such a huge lobster,” said Zhang Qiang, a buyer from Shandong.

In order to ensure that the imported seafood is still alive at the time of sale, Guo Fenghua, head of Shanghai Hongfu Seafood Company, said that during the air transportation, these seafoods are placed in hibernation. The brine concentration in containers is consistent with that of the seawater where they grow. At the same time, hay is added to the transportation containers to absorb excess water, so that the seafood can breathe more easily.

“We import about 20 tons of live lobster from Boston, U.S., to China every week. The king crabs imported from Russia are more than 100 tons weekly. China has become one of the most important export destinations for seafood in the world,” said Guo.

                    

                                                                                          The exhibition stand of French food. 

From Peanuts to Ham

“In the past, Chinese people drank liquor with peanuts, and now we drink with ham, which reflects not only the [growing] prosperity of Chinese people, but is also the best testimony to China’s continuous opening to the outside world,” said Xu Jie, a dealer in Spanish ham.

In front of the booth of Osborne from Spain, Chen Xiaoyong was skillfully cutting slices of the translucent meat and handing it out to visitors. “The thin-cut ham has a marble-like texture. It is so tender that it melts in your mouth, and the flavor lingers for a long time,” said Chen.

In November 2018, China and Spain officially signed a deal, which agreed that the range of pork products exported from Spain to China will be further expanded. This includes bone-in ham, Spanish traditional sausages, and other frozen meats and preserved products which can now be exported to the Chinese market through formal channels.

Data from INTERPORC (a non-profit entity that represents the entire Spanish white pork sector) shows that over the past 10 years, Spain’s pork exports have grown substantially, becoming the largest pork exporter in Europe and the second largest pork exporter in the world, second only to the U.S.

According to ICEX Spain Trade and Investment, pork ranked third in Spain’s exports to China in 2018, totaling €293,802. “The signing of the deal is an excellent opportunity for the Spanish pork industry. We believe that the huge Chinese market will greatly promote the entire Spanish pork industry,” said Bill Derrenger, general manager of Osborne Group.

China’s policy is good news for Spanish ham producers. Chen Xiaoyong said many buyers were very satisfied after tasting his company’s ham, and indicated their intention for cooperation. “We hope that through the platform of the CIIE, more people can learn about our products and put them on local tables,” he said.  

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