Toy orders were down more than 10 per cent at the close of the Canton Fair yesterday, in the wake of a half-year of recalls in the United States for mainland-made toys.
Although the autumn session of the fair, officially known as the China Import and Export Fair, generated a record US$37.45 billion in overall orders, toy sales dropped 10.7 per cent compared with the April fair.
Orders for other consumer goods, such as clothes, shoes and motorcycles, were down by up to 30 per cent due to a number of factors including changes in export tax rebates.
Asked if the US toy recalls had affected business, fair spokesman Xu Bing yesterday said that the fair, seen as the weather vane of the country's export sector, revealed problems that 'our foreign trade had to face'.
Almost 190,000 buyers from 213 countries and regions attended the autumn session, an 8.3 per cent drop in overseas participation from April.
Only the number of European buyers increased, rising 7 per cent.
But Mr Xu said that between 180,000 and 200,000 buyers was a 'stable and acceptable figure', adding that about 12,000 buyers from the Middle East were delayed by Ramadan which ended on October 12.
Nevertheless, many exhibitors said the Sino-US trade war was the cause of the drop off in toy buyers.
'Compared with other sessions we have attended, I estimate that the number of US buyers dropped by more than half this time,' Jiangsu Zhongxin Toys business manager Liu Ling said.
Ms Liu said the autumn session was probably the worst ever for toy producers, possibly on a par with the spring session of 2003 during the outbreak of the Sars virus.
'If the next session is just as bad, I think there won't be any point in us attending the Canton Fair,' she said.
The wave of global recalls of mainland toys started in June and some toy giants such as Mattel have since withdrawn millions of poorly designed items or products with excessive amounts of lead.
In the mainland's largest and longest-running trade show, mechanical and electrical products remained the most wanted export products, generating orders of US$15.62 billion, 41.7 per cent of the total business value, according to fair organisers.