Export Seafood to China: Step by Step Guide


Are you looking for ways to export food (more specifically seafood) to China? If so, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we will provide a step-by-step guide on how to export seafood to China. We’ll also discuss some of the key challenges and opportunities associated with exporting seafood to China. So, whether you’re just starting out or you’re already doing business with China, read on for helpful advice and tips!

The Present and Future of the Seafood Market in China 

There’s no denying the size and reach of China’s fishing industry. Not only is it responsible for one-fifth of the entire marine catches in the world, but it’s also the largest producer of aquaculture to date.

China is also one of the biggest consumers of global seafood. In the 1990s, its import of fish products rose to a staggering 500%. The main countries it gets seafood from include Russia, Ecuador, India, and Canada, among other nations. 

According to a report, a Chinese person in 1990 used to consume an average of 11.5 kg of seafood. In 2004, this number rose to 25.4 kg per capita and was predicted to reach 35.9 kg in 2020.

Meanwhile, increasing income and changes in preferences have led many in the country to import more luxury products such as crab, lobster, and fresh fish. These developments signal a rising demand within the Chinese seafood consumer market while also encouraging downstream trade from sustainable sources.

The high demand for seafood in China has led experts to believe that the country will account for approximately 38% of global consumption by the year 2030. 

The Chinese market also exports a number of seafood products. From February 2021 to February 2022, their monthly exports were valued between around $550 million to 1.2 billion

Given this, the country is clearly one of the largest and most influential markets when it comes to seafood consumption worldwide. Due to this increase, companies and businesses in the fishing industry have many opportunities if they choose to export seafood to China.

How to Export Seafood to China

There are several steps to complete in the registration process before an entity can export seafood to China. Acquiring an export health certificate specific to the type of seafood product you plan to export is necessary to operate in this market.

In general, these health certificates are for live and non-live fish products. Live fish products are those that are fit for direct human consumption while non-live products are those that will require additional processing before they can be consumed.

Acquiring these health certificates will take some time to complete, so it’s important to get things right the first time to avoid delays.

The procedures to begin seafood exports to China vary among the different fishery inspection programs but these generally include the following:

  • Step 1: Signing of agreement and confirming the export permit
  • Step 2: Registering as an exporter with the Certification and Accreditation Administration (CNCA)
  • Step 3: Assessment of product catalog to see if desired products are allowed for export to China
  • Step 4: Confirming qualifications and identifying importer and port of entry
  • Step 5: Labelling
  • Step 6: Acquiring of AQSIQ permit for live products and packaging
  • Step 7: Preparing the documentation for CIQ
  • Step 8: Inspection declaration and customs clearance process

These are the main documents needed for the inspection:

  • Contract
  • Invoice
  • Bill of lading
  • Label in Chinese
  • Certificate of origin (only when required)
  • Health certificate
  • Import permit (only when required)
  • Packing list

Additional Steps to Consider to Export Seafood to China

After being registered with the CNCA and all documents have been prepared, there are some additional steps you can take to increase the chances of being approved for export in China. These include:

  • Register intellectual property: Prior to engaging with the Chinese market, it’s highly recommended to first check if the desired intellectual property has not already been registered in the country. If not, then it’s best to register the IP as soon as possible. Obtaining ownership rights to your own IP is necessary to avoid problems moving forward.
  • Be aware of non-permitted products: The GACC lists some seafood products that aren’t allowed for export into China. It’s important to visit their website as they provide detailed instructions on what goods are allowed and those that are banned.
  • Standards compliance: China implements and upholds its own safety standards. Before deciding to export to the country, it’s vital to identify which rules are applicable to the product you wish to ship.
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  • Know the labeling requirements: All seafood products need to have labels and instructions that are not only compliant with their labeling requirements but also written in Chinese. Working with a local partner or distributor can be beneficial here since they can assist you in labeling your products.

Requirements to Export Seafood to China

As of January 2022, all food establishments must be registered with the General Administration of Customs China (GACC) before they can export to the country. This includes all facilities that manufacture, process, or store foods (cold and dry storage locations).

For companies to be eligible to export fish and seafood to the country for human consumption, all fish establishments including their respective fishing vessels and warehouses must comply with the following:

  • An account with the China Import Food Enterprise Registration (CIFER) system operated by GACC
  • An account in the CIFER system that is certified to submit an application for registration
  • Have an individual approval from GACC as well as registration of all products within the CIFER system
register there

The GACC has listed certain types of food to be either medium or high risk. Fish and seafood products are the primary foods that GACC considers high risk while other foods are considered to be low risk.

One of the main requirements to be eligible for inclusion in GACC’s CIFER system need to meet both their country’s safe food regulations including China’s regulatory requirements. However, those establishments that only plan to export live seafood products and fish do not have to be listed in the CIFER system.

All listed food establishments could be subjected to random audits at any time. These audits will be performed by GACC and are done to ensure compliance with all of China’s regulatory requirements.

Exporting Seafood Byproducts to China

Businesses looking to export seafood byproducts to China have different requirements to complete. The country requires all facilities to apply Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) while having a system that guarantees the recall and tracking of these products.

As of July 2012, all fish oil, fish meal, and other aquatic animal proteins that are to be exported from the United States to China need to meet the GACC requirements under Decree 118. The decree states that all manufacturing establishments producing feed and feed additives need to be registered with GACC.

Before you can be registered, though, you first need to be a SIP-approved establishment for fishery byproducts. An approval to export to China is also necessary, which will only be provided once all quarantine and hygiene requirements have been fulfilled.

Once approved, the SIP will include the applying facility into their list of allowed establishments and then send it to GACC.

How to Acquire Seafood Byproduct Certification for China Export

You can only obtain export certificates for fishery byproducts to China if it was issued by the SIP. Furthermore, the facility has to be approved for export based on the regulatory requirements in the country.

Laboratory tests will also be carried out on five randomly selected samples before approval. These samples will be obtained from each lot or consignment of the product to be exported.

These laboratory test results will have to be reviewed by the SIP regional office assigned to issuing the export certification. They are also the ones who will confirm compliance with all national and SIP requirements.

To obtain byproduct certification, follow these steps:

  • Acquire the necessary laboratory analysis to be shipped out. You need verification that all shipments made meet the import country regulations, which will be provided by the SIP.
  • Acquire and accomplish the Request for Certification / Fishmeal Exports forms. These are available online and can also be obtained via the local SIP inspection office.
  • Forward the accomplished documents to your certificate provider including all third-party laboratory reports.

Working With a Seafood Distributor in China

China is one of the fastest developing countries in the world today, which also means that its business environment can be quite unpredictable. As an exporter, you need to keep an open mind and be ready to adapt to these changes so your business can leverage opportunities as they happen.

One of the most important tips you’ll need to follow to ensure success in the Chinese market is to start and develop strong relationships. After all, being successful in the business world is heavily reliant on solid networks with others.

To increase your chances of succeeding, it’s recommended to find a partner in China that you can trust. Companies looking to export to the country, not only benefits from the local knowledge of these partners but also from their pre-existing networks.

Partnering with a seafood distributor can be beneficial especially if you’re planning to sell fresh fish products in China. Meanwhile, choosing a direct-sell partner might be a better option if you wish to sell frozen or canned seafood there.

You can start finding seafood distributors and direct-sell partners in many ways.

  • We suggest building a strong distribution network through leads generation combined to prospection. This means, while you or your agency is acitvely prospecting chines seafood distributors, you work on your online presence to get their attention and their interests. It will not only opens doors but give you more negotiating power
  • You should also attend physical networking events in the industry.
  • Once you meet a distributor or partner, just make sure to research them to ensure that the partnership will work well for your company. 

Need help with distributon your seafood to china?

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  • hi im looking to fly fish to china can you help please

  • Please im looking for a distributor or buyer of sea foods specially lobsters,crab and octopus..

    • Hi, tell me more, where can you export to and quantity can provide per month or week? I’m interested in crabs.

  • Please im looking for a distributor or buyer of sea foods specially lobsters,crab and octopus..
    Please help.

    • William lee

      Hello, dear exporter, I am a seafood distributor from China. I need your seafood products. You can contact me at 86+18363702630 and my WeChat: li183612. Or my email: 503230332@qq.com.

      • Samantha Wilson

        I represent 5 First Nations Indian bands in British Columbia, Canada
        We have access to fresh Halibut, as well as Crab and are putting together a proposal to export to china.
        Can you help , any information appreciated. We are looking for a partner in China.


      • Domingo ledesma

        Interested in exporting catfish to china

      • Salem Akhrass

        We can provide you with Vannamie shrimps from Saudi Arabia.
        Please advise if you are interested.

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