French sausage in China. French people expatriated in China used to exchange tips to receive from their homeland the famous sausage that they missed so much in their adopted country, even though it was fully illegal. This era is over since the agreement signed in March 2015 between France and China that allows the exportation of some products of French raw meat delicatessen in China. However, sausages did not invade Chinese stalls yet.
French sausage in China: The French sausage crosses the Chinese border after five years of lobbying
Before the signature of this agreement, importation of French sausage in China was simply prohibited. Some European charcuterie products were already available on the market, for instance the parma ham, but French processed pig meat products were still not allowed to enter into China. The standoff was coming from a particularly stormy context including frauds regarding the quality of imported meat and especially pork.
At the beginning of 2013, the government launches a wide crackdown on frauds related to meat is launched, but an umpteenth food scandal surges. This time, it involves pork meat. In March, several thousand of pork carcass appear on the surface of the Huangpu River, the main river crossing Shanghai. Since this scandal which made the headlines of the Chinese press, local authorities are extremely restrictive regarding the type of meat entering their country, even though French enterprises are allowed to export fresh pork meat since 2005. As an example, China only recently lifted its 17-year-old ban on italian pork meat in late september 2016, over swine vesicular disease (SVD) concerns. Regarding the production of sausage or other products of raw meat delicatessen, the meat must come from a slaughterhouse that was certified by the Chinese government.
To comply with Chinese regulations, the Hollande government signed an agreement protocol with its Chinese counterpart in November 2013. This was followed by sanitary inspections of slaughterhouses and production plants by Chinese authorities until March 2014 and the selection of three meat delicatessen enterprises as pioneers of raw meat deli export. Among several competitors, it is the middle size family business “Salaisons et conserves du Rouergue” (SACOR) that was able to convince Chinese sanitary authorities with its sausage.
The next challenge: getting Chinese consumers used to French sausage’s taste
After other administrative steps among which obtaining the precious export approval in March 2015, French sausage was officially entering the Chinese market via the Shanghai International Food Exhibition “Sial China.” Indeed, after having been able to charm Chinese authorities by its sausage quality, the Aveyron producer must still entice Chinese consumers with its sausage taste.
According to Le Figaro, pork meat constitutes 45% of consumed meat, which represents around 55 million tons per year. Chinese consumers do appreciate pork, but they are not used to meat delicatessen. If we can find several varieties of dried and smoked sausages in China, often under the name of “La Chang,” which means sugary sausage in Mandarin, very few Chinese people know the French sausage. “La Chang” sausages, usually prepared for the Chinese New Year, are cooked with soy sauce and sugar, which is very far from the flavor of French products prepared with pepper, garlic or simply smoked. The next step for SACOR is, therefore, to attend Chinese food exhibitions to make its products known and appreciated by locals. Beyond the problem of taste, SACOR must also take the time to find the good distribution partner.
Hence, if French sausage did cross the Chinese border, it has not reached supermarkets and groceries’ stalls yet. For now on, the meat delicatessen industry does not publish any figures regarding the potential turnover that the Chinese market could generate. But globally, for the whole pork meat industry, the national porcine inter-branch hopes in 2014 to export until 20,000 tonnes of pork products per year (the export agreement of raw meat deli also involves exports of dry-cured ham), by targeting the Chinese middle class, a market of 300 million consumers, according to the estimates of industrialists.
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