Nation develops growing appetite for food imports

By LI YINGXUE | China Daily | Updated: 2023-12-07 07:35
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A worker at a factory in Changsha, Hunan province, samples dried anchovy imported from Kenya. CHEN YEHUA/XINHUA

During the Shanghai expo, New Zealand agricultural produce was in demand among consumers on Tmall, while in the top live broadcasting rooms on Taobao, premium items such as imported prime cut beef ribs, Manuka honey, New Zealand's latest milk products, and Pic's peanut butter featured prominently.

Grahame Morton, New Zealand's ambassador to China, highlighted the close economic and trade relations between the two nations, emphasizing the rapid growth of e-commerce cooperation.

He said Tmall plays a crucial role in providing a robust infrastructure for overseas brands to enter the Chinese market, as the platform has successfully helped hundreds of New Zealand brands connect with millions of Chinese consumers.

More than 10,000 of the imports that are thriving on Tmall include coveted items such as Chilean cherries, milk from New Zealand, Norwegian salmon, and red wine from Argentina, among others. These products have rapidly penetrated the Chinese market through the platform to become "must-haves".

Data released at a news conference held by Tmall during the expo show that sales of imported food on the platform surpassed 50 billion yuan ($70.2 billion) in the first three quarters of this year, and this food comes from more than 130 countries and regions. Furthermore, this category has experienced year-on-year growth for three years.

Tmall's 2024 global direct procurement plan shows that the platform aims for sales of food imports to reach 10 billion yuan within one year.

Li Yan, deputy general manager of the fresh food industry at Tmall, said the platform's data reflects increasing demand in China for food imported from countries taking part in the Belt and Road Initiative, or BRI.

"Among the imported food brands taking part in the Double 11 promotion, more than half were from Belt and Road nations," Li said, adding that Tmall has established dedicated live broadcasting sessions to specifically showcase products from BRI countries.

Chile is one of the nations to sign a memorandum of understanding for the BRI with China. An agreement Tmall reached in 2015 to import Chilean cherries has significantly shaped the market, and during this time, cherries have become extremely popular on Chinese dining tables during the Spring Festival.

At the Shanghai expo, Tmall launched an ambitious 2023-24 season super sales plan for Chilean cherries, sales of which are forecast to reach 2 billion yuan.

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