BEIJING — With China presenting a large opportunity for pet food processors seeking to export their products to international markets, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) detailed the registration and export process for pet food to the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

According to the USDA FAS, the United States has become the largest exporter of pet food products to China. Pet food exports from the United States to China totaled more than $304 million from January to November 2022, up nearly 200% year-over-year, according to China’s General Administration of Customs (GACC). This amounted to more than 44,000 tonnes of pet food and accounted for nearly 50% of all China’s imports over the 11-month period. This growth is expected to continue as trade agreements further lift exportation restrictions for US pet food processors.

Pet foods currently eligible for exportation include commercially processed finished products, like snacks, treats and chews, for companion animals, including dogs, cats, and other non-livestock. This also includes dry, canned, wet and semi-moist formulas, as well as ingredients like rendered poultry fat, porcine meal, lard, spray-dried porcine blood ingredients and porcine protein concentrate.


Step by step

To begin exporting pet foods to China, US processors must first have an FDA-registered manufacturing facility. Pet food manufacturing facilities must also have inspection and approval from the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)’s Veterinary Services (VS) before exportation can be allowed. Inspections and approvals must be maintained on a yearly basis.

APHIS will issue facilities an approval number, which will then be shared with APHIS’s office in Beijing, which will then be sent on to the GACC. The GACC will then issue the US-based facility a PRC number.

APHIS will notify the facility of its PRC number and the GACC will list the facility and its product information on its Animal and Plant Quarantine Department site. Pet food processors are responsible for ensuring that the information is listed accurately on the GACC website.

Second, US-based pet food manufacturing facilities will need to obtain a product import registration license from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA). Eligible for five years, the import registration license must be obtained before shipping products. However, some importers have been able to ship their products through e-commerce methods without obtaining a MARA license, but the FAS advises that pet food processors work with their partners and importers in China to examine if it is a possibility for their specific situation.

Lastly, before exporting any pet food products, facilities must obtain an export certificate endorsement for each specific shipment from the APHIS VS. Each certificate will need to include the facility’s name and address, product names, amount of product being shipped, the buyer in China, and APHIS and PCR approval numbers. Following this, processors can begin exporting pet foods to China.


The caveats

Facilities exporting non-animal-based additives, premixes, supplements and compound animal feed will need to contact USDA-AMS, instead of APHIS, to receive the GACC facility listing information after receiving FDA and MARA registrations.

Those exporting fish-based ingredients for use in pet food, including fishmeal, oil or fish-based proteins, will need to contact NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for help exporting to China.

Pet food products must meet China’s domestic labeling regulations before exportation can even be a possibility. Labels must detail the product name, raw materials, product component analysis guaranteed value, net weight, storage instructions/conditions, usage instructions and cautions, production date, shelf-life, manufacturer’s name and address, country of origin, and licensing certificate number. China also has specific labeling regulations regarding product claims, including those of ingredients, special features and functions.

As well as labeling restrictions, China also has many ingredient restrictions for pet food products. The country currently allows pet foods with animal-based ingredients derived from poultry, swine, ruminants, farmed terrestrial animals, farmed and wild-caught aquatic animals and bees, as well as US-originated cattle and bison. However, sheep, lamb and goat-based ingredients must originate from Australia or New Zealand. Additionally, ingredients derived from wild terrestrial animals, reptiles, amphibians and insects (other than bees) are prohibited.

The FAS and its office in Beijing recommend that US pet food manufacturers work closely with importers in China to understand the full process, reduce the possibility of any clearance issues, and successfully expand into the Chinese market.

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