China is the world’s largest grocery market with the value of the organic food market estimated at US$7.8 billion to more than US$13 billion, while grocery market growth is expected to rise by 9% in 2014 to over 14% in 2020, according to IGD research.

A market study carried out by the Organic and Beyond Corporation also indicated that the Chinese market offers good business opportunities for European organic companies who want to export their products to China.

Dairy products, wine, baby food, olive oil and grain products are especially popular, and organic consumers mainly buy them at luxury supermarkets, at organic specialist stores, or online

Chinese organic certification groups signing more mutual recognition agreements with leading overseas organic certifiers in Australia, Europe, North America and other countries are helping the organic market growth.

China is a major organic export country as well. In 2013, 246,000 tonnes of organic goods were exported to 23 countries and regions around the world. Besides the USA, the main importing countries are Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Switzerland and France. Soya beans are China’s chief export, though its tea, fruits, nuts, vegetables show increased export demand too.

A Hong Kong Trade Development Council report in June 2014 said that an urbanised lifestyle and rising incomes are fuelling the growth of China’s packaged food market and with consumer concerns rising over food safety and quality, certification guidelines are very strict.

And the rate of high-income groups is steadily growing in big cities like Shanghai and Beijing.

Supermarkets/hypermarkets are the main retail channels for packaged food, but are facing increased challenges from online retailers such as Alibaba’s Tmall business to consumer online shopfront.

China’s is the world’s largest e-commerce market, with growth expected to rise from AUD $196 billion last year to AUD $413 billion in 2016, with more than 70% of people in Mainland China shopping online more than once a week.

The Alibaba Group alone controls more than 80% of e-commerce transactions in China.

In December 2013, inspection and administration agency AQSIQ issued the Administration Measures for Organic Product Certification, which clarified that the Certification and Administration of the PRC (CNCA) was responsible for the unified administration, supervision and overall coordination of organic food certification across China.

The new organic certification rules commenced in April 2014. A major change is that the organic ingredients must be equal to or above 95% and that the term ‘organic’ must be listed on the product package and the label, and have an organic certification mark affixed to it after obtaining organic certification.

Chinese organic certification bodies have to be registered with the Certification and Accreditation Administration of the PRC (CNCA). One of the largest certifiers is COFC, while there were 25 organic certification groups in 2014.

The organic certification bodies are allowed to inspect and certify against their own private organic standards as long as certified products adhere to China’s national regulation. Certification bodies are obliged to publish their private standards and certification procedures.

Australian organic certification bodies have signed agreements with Chinese organic certification groups such as the Organic Food Development Center (OFDC) and Beijing WuYue HuaXia Management and Technique Center (CHC).