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Market Overview – China

Note: This report includes forecasting data that is based on baseline historical data.

Executive summary

China is the most populous country in the world with 1.40 billion people (2019).

China is also the world's second-largest economy with a gross domestic product (GDP) of US$11.5 trillion (2018). China was the third largest importer of agri-food and seafood products in the world after the United States (U.S.) and the European Union (E.U.).

China is a net importer of agri-food and seafood products with imports of Can$198.9 billion in 2019, rising at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.6% from 2015 to 2019.

The top five imports to China from 2015 to 2019 were soybeans, frozen beef, baby food, palm oil, and frozen shrimp. In 2019, Canada had an agri-food and seafood trade surplus of Can$8.0 billion with China.

Canada's agri-food and seafood exports to China were valued at Can$6.5 billion in 2019, a decline of 38.0%. Declining agri-food and seafood exports to China include oilseeds (-78.3%), canola oil (-25.4%), grains/cereals (-15.7%), and edible vegetables and pulses/peas (−1.6%) in 2019.

China's processed food and beverage imports increased at a CAGR of 14.2% from 2015 to 2019. The fastest growing imports in the last five years were frozen shrimp, frozen pork, frozen beef, food preparations, and powdered milk.

Country profile

China is one of Canada's largest export markets for agri-food and seafood products. Exports to China have been driven by its massive population, rapid urbanization, and rising disposable income of the growing middle class. This has led consumers to become more sophisticated and increase demand for imported food.

China is the most populous country in the world at 1.40 billion people in 2019, which is forecast to grow to 1.42 billion by 2024. The ten largest cities are located in the eastern half of the country, situated on or near the coast. Shanghai is the biggest city with 22.7 million people, followed by Beijing with 20.4 million.

China has the world's second largest economy. Economic growth in China has been subdued since 2019 due to the effects of the trade war with the U.S. and the novel coronavirus outbreak, which have severely impacted several domestic industries and essentially secluded China from the global market. In response, the Chinese government has rolled out policy and fiscal measures to stimulate the economy, which are forecast to grow in real GDP terms from US$11,495.45 billion in 2019 to US$ 15,177.71 billion by 2024.

Production

Corn is China's primary domestic crop, followed by rice. Volume production of corn grew by a CAGR of 4.5% from 2014 to 2018.

Meat production is dominated by pork, which has fallen by a CAGR of −6.8% from 2015 to 2019. Chicken production, the second-largest meat category, has stayed the same while beef production has increased 2.0% over the same period. Pig numbers have decreased from 2013 to 2017, while sheep, cattle, and buffalo numbers have remained steady.

Top ten crops produced in China, '000 tonnes
Crops 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 CAGR* % 2014-2018
Corn 215,812,100 265,157,307 263,777,750 259,256,299 257,348,659 4.5
Rice 208,239,610 213,723,732 212,681,776 214,430,049 214,078,796 0.7
Vegetables 163,483,006 168,483,944 170,311,998 172,608,952 174,861,648 1.7
Wheat 126,215,211 132,646,335 133,277,091 134,340,746 131,447,224 1.0
Sugar cane 126,153,469 107,728,911 103,788,445 104,905,705 108,718,971 −3.7
Potatoes 84,211,784 82,682,607 84,986,523 88,536,429 90,321,442 1.8
Watermelons 61,702,430 62,888,866 62,407,633 63,357,881 63,024,614 0.5
Tomatoes 52,803,743 55,813,808 57,571,895 59,599,343 61,631,581 3.9
Cucumbers 56,927,748 60,025,874 61,806,622 59,590,591 56,293,530 −0.3
Sweet potatoes 56,017,449 54,431,530 51,629,576 51,691,238 53,245,657 −1.3

Source: FAOSTAT Agricultural Production, April 2020

*CAGR: Compound Annual Growth Rate

Top five livestock produced in China, head
Livestock 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 CAGR* % 2014-2018
Pigs 484,914,637 477,319,294 463,691,696 447,694,081 447,175,334 −2.0
Sheep 152,770,240 162,237,921 166,667,996 162,387,897 164,079,093 1.8
Goats 136,736,730 141,833,662 145,231,838 137,064,393 138,383,129 0.3
Cattle 63,046,907 63,195,900 63,539,180 61,987,008 63,417,928 0.1
Buffaloes 26,960,091 27,024,581 27,170,009 26,505,833 27,118,636 0.1

Source: FAOSTAT Agricultural Production, April 2020

*CAGR: Compound Annual Growth Rate

Top three meats produced in China, '000 tonnes
Meat 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 CAGR* % 2015-2019
Pork 56,454 54,255 54,518 54,040 42,550 −6.8
Chicken 13,561 12,448 11,600 11,700 13,750 0.3
Beef 6,169 6,169 6,346 6,440 6,670 2.0

Source: United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), April 2020

*CAGR: Compound Annual Growth Rate

Trade

China is a net importer of agri-food and seafood products. In 2019, China's agri-food and seafood trade deficit was Can$94.7 billion with imports valued at Can$198.9 billion, and Can$104.2 billion in exports. China's agri-food and seafood imports increased at a CAGR of 7.6% from 2015 to 2019. In 2019, Canada had an agri-food and seafood trade surplus of Can$8.0 billion with China.

China's top agri-food and seafood imports in 2019 were soybeans, baby food, frozen boneless beef, palm oil, and frozen shrimp. Key supplying countries were Brazil, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. The top five agri-food and seafood suppliers to China accounted for Can$94,114.6 billion or 47.2% of the total imports in 2019.

Canada's agri-food and seafood exports to China were valued at Can$6.5 billion in 2019, down from Can$10.5 billion in 2018, a 38.0% decline. Declining exports to China include oilseeds (−78.3%), canola oil (−25.4%), grains/cereals (−15.7%), and edible vegetables and pulses/peas (−1.6%) in 2019.

China's top agri-food and seafood imports from the world, 2019
Commodity Import value Can$ millions Top suppliers and market share Canada's share %
1 2 3
Soybeans 46,959.4 Brazil: 65.2% United States: 18.9% Argentina: 10.1% 2.9
Frozen beef 9,537.7 Brazil: 29.1% Argentina: 24.4% Australia: 18.9% 1.2
Baby food 7,072.7 Netherlands: 30.7% New Zealand: 22.8% Ireland: 14.5%
Palm oil 5,414.8 Indonesia: 66.6% Malaysia: 33.4% Thailand: 0.0% 0.0
Frozen shrimps 5,267.6 Ecuador: 46.5% India: 22.8% Thailand: 6.4% 0.0
Frozen pork 4,798.9 Spain: 20.0 Brazil: 16.4% Germany: 14.4% 5.3
Cotton 4,735.2 Brazil: 26.1% Australia: 22.9% United States: 20.6
Food preparations 4,148.7 United States: 23.3% Australia: 22.2% Thailand: 7.6% 2.7
Greasy shorn wool 2,971.6 Australia: 79.2% South Africa: 7.7% New Zealand: 5.3% 0.0
Wine, bottled 2,910.4 Australia: 37.1 France: 29.0 Chile: 12.3 0.0
Source: Global Trade Tracker, 2020

China's processed food imports were valued at Can$106.6 billion in 2019. Canada's share was 3.0%, down from 4.2% in 2018. New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, and the U.S. were the largest suppliers of processed food to China in 2019, providing 35.9% of the market.

Processed food and beverage imports increased at a CAGR of 14.2% over the period from 2015 to 2019. The fastest growing imports in the last five years were frozen shrimp, frozen pork, frozen beef, food preparations, and powdered milk.

China's top ten processed food and beverage imports from the world in Can$ millions
Products 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 CAGR* % 2015-2019
Total 62,638.0 67,796.3 74,593.7 84,427.3 106,594.7 14.2
Frozen beef 2,571.9 2,913.7 3,506.5 5,509.0 9,537.7 38.8
Baby food 3,245.7 4,071.6 5,265.0 6,351.7 7,072.7 21.5
Palm oil 4,733.2 3,791.8 4,516.4 4,400.3 5,414.8 3.4
Frozen shrimp 571.8 591.5 611.3 1,769.2 5,267.6 74.2
Frozen pork 1,285.2 2,922.0 1,980.0 1,957.1 4,798.9 39.0
Food preparations 1,671.9 1,969.1 2,356.6 3,530.6 4,148.7 25.5
Wine 2,411.1 2,917.9 3,306.4 3,331.8 2,910.4 4.8
Powdered milk 1,199.1 1,420.1 1,971.6 2,245.2 2,887.8 24.6
Fish meal 2,312.2 2,127.5 2,889.9

2,894.5

2,624.6 3.2
Frozen poultry 1,150.8 1,621.0 1,328.9 1,471.6 2,609.7 22.7

Source: Global Trade Tracker, 2020

*CAGR: Compound Annual Growth Rate

Frozen beef (HS 020230)

Canada was China's 6th largest supplier of frozen beef with imports valued at Can$112.4 million. China's frozen beef imports from Canada have shrunk by a CAGR of −16.2% since 2015 to a market share of 1.2%. Imports from established and smaller suppliers have grown significantly, with the highest growth coming from the U.S. (804.3%), Ireland (699.3%), and Chile (127.9%).

China's top ten suppliers of frozen beef, Can$ million
Country 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 CAGR* % 2015-2019
World 2,571.9 2,913.7 3,506.5 5,509.0 9,537.7 38.8
Brazil 382.8 1,018.5 1,131.2 1,977.9 2,773.1 64.1
Argentina 263.7 301.6 477.6 1,024.7 2,322.0 72.3
Australia 777.1 559.0 687.5 1,020.0 1,804.3 23.4
New Zealand 386.7 344.1 409.1 531.0 1,105.6 30.0
Uruguay 519.0 552.1 646.4 726.0 1,094.9 20.5
Canada 228.0 121.1 103.5 89.5 112.4 −16.2
U.S. 0.0 0.0 23.3 70.0 86.1 804.3
Ireland 0.0 0.0 0.0 7.3 58.6 699.3
Costa Rica 13.2 9.5 15.1 20.1 50.6 40.0
Chile 1.2 6.9 7.1 10.2 32.8 127.9

Source: Global Trade Tracker, 2020

*CAGR: Compound Annual Growth Rate

Baby food (HS 190110)

China's baby food imports have grown by a CAGR of 21.5% since 2015, with the highest growth from New Zealand (59.2%) and EU countries. China's largest baby food suppliers in 2019 were New Zealand and EU countries. Between 2015 and 2019, baby food imports from Canada have grown to Can$1.4 million, or by a CAGR of 12.2%.

Baby milks (infant formula) dominate the baby foods category. The majority of milks are imported, due to strong consumer preference for imported (milk) products, but most cereals, meals, and other baby food products are produced locally. EU member states are the largest suppliers of infant formula to China.

China's top ten suppliers of baby food, Can$ million
Country 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 CAGR* % 2015-2019
World 3,245.7 4,071.6 5,265.0 6,351.7 7,072.7 21.5
Netherlands 1,044.8 1,354.8 1,511.0 2,138.2 2,168.0 20.0
New Zealand 250.8 446.0 887.0 1134.5 1,611.9 59.2
Ireland 524.4 749.4 848.7 947.9 1,027.2 18.3
Germany 389.8 445.8 551.6 642.8 549.1 8.9
France 169.3 177.3 522.8 461.7 506.1 31.5
Denmark 123.3 191.8 283.3 259.3 340.4 28.9
Australia 200.1 220.4 249.3 217.9 319.7 12.4
Switzerland 54.0 91.4 123.0 126.0 130.8 24.8
U.S. 98.3 91.1 94.5 122.9 126.4 6.5
South Korea 112.0 132.4 78.5 100.3 83.7 −7.0
Canada (23rd) 0.9 0.32 0.15 0.36 1.4 12.2

Source: Global Trade Tracker, 2020

*CAGR: Compound Annual Growth Rate

Frozen shrimp (HS 030617)

China's largest suppliers of frozen shrimp in 2019 were Ecuador, India, Thailand, and Argentina; while Canada ranked 14th. Frozen shrimp imports have experienced tremendous growth since 2015, growing overall by a CAGR of 74.2% with the highest growth coming from Saudi Arabia and Peru. Frozen shrimp imports from Canada have fallen by a CAGR of 5.7% between 2015 and 2019.

China's top ten suppliers of frozen shrimp, Can$ million
Country 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 CAGR* % 2015-2019
World 571.8 591.5 611.3 1,769.2 5,267.6 74.2
Ecuador 225.4 127.6 138.9 627.2 2,450.5 81.6
India 77.3 51.6 89.1 271.2 1,198.7 98.5
Thailand 50.0 66.3 89.2 223.4 337.8 61.2
Argentina 67.1 242.4 178.7 370.2 337.0 49.7
Viet-Nam 7.0 10.2 14.5 116.2 336.8 163.1
Saudi Arabia 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.6 239.9 41,422.0
Malaysia 2.9 7.8 9.9 30.5 94.8 139.2
Indonesia 83.5 36.2 18.4 40.4 69.0 −4.7
Mexico 3.8 2.5 8.3 3.8 57.0 97.3
Peru 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.0 39.5 6,840.5
Canada (14th) 12.1 6.0 10.4 13.9 9.6 −5.7

Source: Global Trade Tracker, 2020

*CAGR: Compound Annual Growth Rate

For more information

The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service:

International Trade Commissioners can provide Canadian industry with on-the-ground expertise regarding market potential, current conditions and local business contacts, and are an excellent point of contact for export advice.

More agri-food market intelligence:

International agri-food market intelligence
Discover global agriculture and food opportunities, the complete library of Global Analysis reports, market trends and forecasts, and information on Canada's free trade agreements.

For additional information on trade shows in China, please contact:

Ben Berry, Deputy Director
Trade Show Strategy and Delivery
Agriculture and agri-food Canada
ben.berry@canada.ca

Resources

Market Overview – China
Global Analysis Report

Prepared by: Kris Clipsham, Market Analyst

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (2021).

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