China lifts bird flu ban on French chicken pet foods

An outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian flu caused China’s ban on French chicken products, including dog and cat foods.

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(Artmim |
(Artmim |

Chinese officials lifted a ban on the importation of dog and cat foods containing poultry products from France. The ban on French poultry products had been in place since Dec. 2015. An outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian flu caused China’s ban on French chicken, turkey and other poultry products, including dog and cat foods containing the birds.

China’s General Administration of Agriculture and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs announced that, as of March 27, human and pet food companies could sell products containing chicken from France in China.

According to the results of a risk analysis, Chinese agricultural agencies recognized France as a bird flu-free country, stated Chinese officials in an announcement.

Barriers to pet food imports to China

While pet food brands from companies headquartered outside of China still account for much of the US$2.2 billion Chinese pet food market, according to GfK data, that share has declined in recent years. The Chinese government has been supporting and promoting the domestic industry and its growth, reported Petfood Industry.

For example, the license required in China to sell pet foods from outside the country is difficult to obtain. New pet food regulations issued in May 2018 closed a loophole that previously allowed U.S. and other non-domestic pet food companies to sell their products via a mechanism called cross-border e-commerce. In that sales system, pet food companies could send their products to a free trade zone, such as Hong Kong, and an online consumer order through a Chinese e-commerce platform could be fulfilled from that inventory.

Comments from Wang Jinquan, Ph.D., associate professor with the Feed Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (a government agency) and lead drafter of the pet food regulations, lay out the government’s perspective quite clearly. “With the rapid development of e-commerce, some foreign pet food manufacturers overrode the regulatory control of the Ministry of Agriculture and entered into the Chinese market through B to C channels; foreign pet food has price and brand advantages and superiority, this has an impact on the domestic pet food product.”

Foreign vs. domestic pet food producers in China

As for those non-Chinese companies that have been able to register their pet food products with the Chinese government, they numbered a record high of 60 in 2017, according to Wang. (Note that those are “enterprises” importing pet food, not individual brands.) Only 16 of those companies are from North or South America: Canada, Brazil and Argentina, in addition to the U.S. It’s unclear how many of those companies are from the U.S. alone, but it’s interesting that 13 or fewer producers represent the world’s largest pet food market in this fast-growing pet-owning country.

The largest bloc of companies, 23, come from European countries (Belgium, France, Netherlands, England, Germany, Spain, Norway, Czech Republic); yet the best representation belongs to Australia and New Zealand, which together account for 11 companies. Asia — specifically, Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea and Japan — is represented by eight companies.

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