Last year, dog, cat and other pet food exports from the United States to China increased under the U.S.-China Phase One Economic and Trade Agreement, which was signed Jan. 2020. Following that accord, U.S. pet food exports to China increased 197% according to U.S. Census Bureau data analyzed by Gina Tumbarello, American Feed Industry Association director of international policy and trade, in a blog. Despite the increases, Chinese pet food imports have yet to reach the purchasing commitments set by the nations’ diplomats. U.S. pet food export growth to China from 2019 to 2020 was equivalent to .012% of what China committed to import.
Pet food exports under Phase One
For China’s estimated 55 million pet dog and 44 million pet cat market, the Phase One agreement lifted a ban on ruminant ingredients and an accompanying requirement for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing of them. The deal removed a ban on products with certain poultry ingredients. It may also reduce registration delays for pet food facilities in China by removing an audit requirement. However, China maintains tariffs on U.S. pet foods, and product registration complexities remain.
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. He outlined three steps that U.S.-based pet food companies can take in the near term.
- Review the trade agreement and the APHIS protocol
- Schedule an APHIS inspection and get approved
- 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.
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.