New rules likely to raise costs

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 August, 2007, 12:00am

Mainland analysts expect new quality inspections of food exports to make the process more difficult and costly, but say the changes are inevitable if standards are to rise.

Exporters and analysts yesterday said the new practice would increase the work and technical challenges facing customs and quality inspection officials. It would also hit businesses with higher costs, possibly forcing some out of the market.

They said that in the past, the mainland conducted random checks on shipments according to a particular ratio.

Zhejiang food safety expert Lai Cunli said the most significant change was that inspecting and sealing shipments would become government practice.

Mr Lai said Zhejiang food export inspectors were this week told the new practice would take effect next month, and that they were working hard to ensure they were prepared.

He said inspection bureaus would have to work closely with customs to seal each shipment, adding greatly to their workload.

'I know officials are busy working on this to make sure enough people can be allocated to all positions, but officials know that this time it is a government decision and it has to be executed without any excuses.'

Although official statements said every shipment would have to be checked, some analysts suggested big food exporters with good reputations may not have too much trouble. In the past, they were authorised to apply their own food safety certifications before the shipments were inspected.

Yan Yunyue, general manager of the Wenling Shengye Frozen Seafood Company in Wenzhou , Zhejiang, said: 'We paste the labels on ourselves after the entry-exit inspection and quarantine authorities finish their work. But if it means authorities have to label all food exports themselves, it would be fine with us.'

But smaller food manufacturers and exporters would face logistical problems if each shipment had to be opened and sealed at inspection bureaus and customs.

'Businesses will have to spend extra to cover traffic between inspection offices, customs and ports while ensuring the freshness of the food,' Mr Lai said.

Li Jianrong , from Gongshang University's College of Food Science, Biotechnology and Environmental Engineering in Zhejiang, said the storage and shipping of fresh and frozen foods would be more difficult.