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More imported food options unveiled in China

The United States Agricultural Trade Office, in partnership with Yihaodian, one of China’s leading e-commerce retailers, on Jan 21 launched its first online fresh and frozen food portal.

The online platform offers 500 types of products from over 80 brands and among them are US produce such as corn-fed pork from Iowa, Alaskan seafood and Gala apples from Washington which were in 2015 permitted for import following the introduction of a new protocol. Previously, Golden Delicious and Red Delicious apples were the only two types of US-grown apples allowed for import into China.

"China is now the top market for US agricultural exports. In 2015, the total value of agricultural exports to China had reached $28 billion," said Hanscom Smith, Consulate General of the United States of America Shanghai, China, at the news conference to announce the launch of the portal.

Smith said that he is confident the availability of some of the finest produce from the US will be welcomed by Chinese consumers who are currently busy stocking up on food for the upcoming Chinese New Year, the most important traditional festival in the country that falls on Feb 8 this year.

A strategic partnership agreement was also signed by the two parties at the news conference and it includes plans to introduce more fresh and frozen foods from the US.

The online portal marks the fourth country-specified site offering imported fresh and frozen food on Yihaodian.com — it was fully acquired by Walmart in July 2015 — following countries such as New Zealand, Canada and Australia.

According to Cao Wei, vice president of the Shanghai-headquartered company’s merchandising department, sales of fresh and frozen food accounted for 40 percent of the entire food segment in 2015, up from 8 percent the previous year. Imported carton milk has enjoyed the highest sales volume for the past few years. Cao said that Yihaodian is planning to launch another six to eight online stores in 2016 to tap into the fresh and frozen food market.

The China E-commerce Research Center has estimated that online sales for fresh and frozen food reached 26 billion yuan ($3.95 billion) in 2014, up 100 percent from the previous year. However, the amount is still less than 3 percent of the country’s 1-trillion-yuan fresh and frozen food market.