More opportunities for African fruits in China’s markets

Africa’s agriculture industry is the backbone of many markets on the continent, providing much needed revenue for both local producers and exporters. While most of its agriculture exports go to European markets, an increasing share is being sent to countries such as Brazil, Russia, India and China. Exporting food products to China is no easy feat, with a multi-layered regulatory system in place to ensure that certain standards on quality and safety is met. Many opportunities await African exporters if these protocols are met.

South Africa recently signed a revise phytosanitary protocol with China to begin the export of lemons to the large consumer market of 1.4bn in China. With the deal hoping to attract ZAR 325mn (USD 22mn) in export revenue, it shows how one market can successfully capture a lucrative figure with a single product, presenting opportunities for many more protocols to be signed and discussed for other food products. According to the WHO, 52.8% of Africa’s working age population are employed in the agriculture industry with some markets seeing this industry contribute 30% to 60% of GDP. All of this occurs even considering there is only 9.4% of arable land in Sub-Saharan Africa. These figures show how essential this industry is on the continent and its economy.

Only 7.6% of China’s 2020 imports fall in the ‘food’ category, representing a staggering amount of USD 155.97bn worth of imports. While Africa is still behind top sourcing countries in this industry, the signing of these protocols will hopefully boost the African market to surpass the current exports to China from Brazil, the US, Canada and Australia. African markets should first focus on making sure their products are in line with China’s regulatory authorities, with the State Administration for Market Regulation and the National Health Commission of China being the biggest hurdles exporters need to overcome to get their quality products into the Chinese consumer market. Thousands of products are returned annually due to non-compliant food quality, incorrect labelling on packages, or not having the right certificates when required. Following numerous guidelines may be challenging, but the reward is high should all requirements be met.

South Africa’s latest protocol to export lemons is another success story of an African country navigating the intricate Chinese consumer market to achieve further growth in the trade relations between the two markets. Should more African markets follow suit, a continent where over half the working population relies on this industry will surely see further economic prosperity.

“This article is produced by Axis Group International and is published in The Econometer section of ChinAfrica magazine (August 2021), an English and French language monthly publication that provides news, views and analysis on all things China, Africa and China-Africa relations.”
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