3 steps to export US pet food to China after Phase One

June 15, a protocol went into effect regarding the U.S.-China Phase One Economic and Trade Agreement signed by the two countries in January.

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(Gang Zhou | iStockPhoto.com)
(Gang Zhou | iStockPhoto.com)

U.S. pet food producers soon will gain greater access to China’s estimated 55 million pet dogs and 44 million pet cats. On June 15, a protocol went into effect regarding the U.S.-China Phase One Economic and Trade Agreement signed by the two countries in January. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and their Chinese counterparts reached an agreement on the certificate language for the entrance of U.S. pet foods into China’s pet food market. That agreement allowed the development of a set procedure to export U.S. pet food to China.

That protocol, developed by APHIS, facilitates the export of U.S. pet foods containing ingredients made from ruminants, a relic of the mad cow prion disease scare. In case another livestock disease breaks out, the protocol includes provisions on how to safely continue utilizing poultry products in pet food in the event of an avian influenza or Newcastle disease outbreak. The trade agreement also will remove procedural barriers, such as facility questionnaires and audits.

Steps to export U.S. pet food to China

U.S.-based pet food companies stand to benefit greatly from the trade deal, Peter Tabor, vice president of regulatory and international affairs for the Pet Food Institute, said. (see video below) He outlined three steps that U.S.-based pet food companies can take in the near term.

  1. Review the trade agreement and the APHIS protocol
  2. Schedule an APHIS inspection and get approved
  3. Begin product registration process in China

He recommended that pet food companies act now if they wish to export to China, as the registration process likely will still take months. There may be a steep learning curve on the first few products, but should be much smoother than previously once companies get the hang of it.

Growing Chinese pet food market

Euromonitor estimated that sales of dog and cat kibble in China will reach US$2.7 billion and US$1.3 billion, respectively, in 2022, Petfood Industry’s Alma Buelva reported. Wet dog food may hit US$841 million in sales by 2022, with US$705 million spent on wet cat food in China. Despite concerns about the damaging effects to the pet industry of China's trade war with the U.S. and how China's population has actually begun to decline and age rapidly like in other highly industrialized countries, its pet industry is still looking at a very promising future.

One reason for this is China's current unstoppable pet boom as demand for companion animals comes from almost every age group. Given that the standard of living has improved across the country of late, especially in urban centers, young people, adult singles, families with small children and retirees are welcoming pets into their lives more than ever.

According to Euromonitor, China's pet population has increased by a 7% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2013 to 2017, from 389 million pets to 510 million. It added that the pet population explosion will continue from 2018 to 2022, from 551 million to 755 million at 8.2% CAGR. By that time, China's population will be plateauing at an estimated 1.411 billion, but the pets' number will still be rising.

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