China. 1.3 billion consumers. You’ve read it all before, so I don’t have to repeat the hype.
But what many tend to leave out of the conversation, is the almost 1.3 billion regulations you must comply with before you can even start selling to China.
Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but it can feel almost as overwhelming when trying to navigate the details of CCC, CIQ and other product regulations in China.
In this article, written by Fredrik Gronkvist of Export2Asia.com and Chinaimportal, you will learn the basics of product certification and mandatory labeling when selling online to, and within, Mainland China.
CIQ: Food & Beverage
I think we all know why Chinese consumers have an appetite for food imported from Europe, Japan and the Americas. But don’t think that you can start loading your container just yet.
First, you need to make sure that your products are compliant with all mandatory CIQ regulations for food and beverage, when exporting to China.
While the actual process is fairly complex, it can be summarized as follows:
1. You need to make sure that the food and its packaging is correctly labeled (in Chinese characters). You may also need a CIQ sticker.
An example follow below:
- Name and content of the product
- Name and of the producer
- Ingredient list
- Production date and shelf life
- Consumption instructions
2. Prepare a CIQ declaration in advance.
Preferably, you should do this before the shipment arrives in China, as the bureaucracy can take weeks or even months to process – if something is wrong. At this time, your goods are probably worthless.
3. Finally, you need to pass the CIQ inspection
The goods must pass a CIQ inspection on site in China, before the shipment is cleared for customs. They will look at the paperwork, labels and perhaps even send your food for testing.
Notice that I leave out the initial registration process in this guide, as that is a topic on its own. This is just a brief introduction to the requirements you must satisfy to export food and beverages to China.
CCC: Consumer Goods
The CCC mark is sort of China’s answer to the European Union’s CE mark. It’s a compliance mark for consumer goods, showing that the product is made in compliance with all applicable safety standards.
A few examples of products within the scope of CCC follows:
- Consumer Electronics
- Lighting Products
- Medical Devices
In order to ensure compliance with CCC, you must take the following steps:
- Create CCC label and make sure it’s affixed to the product, packaging and manual
- Submit your product for CCC testing
- Create technical documentation
Easier said than done…
Questions & Answers
What if my product is not within the scope of CCC or CIQ?
Many products, such as textiles, neither fall within the scope of CIQ nor CCC. That said, China has a set of national standards (Guobiao), that is applicable to many product categories.
For example, GB 18401-2010 is applicable to textile products exported to China, and regulates formaldehyde content, color fastness and so on.
While it’s not clear if lab testing is mandatory for adult apparel sold in China, this may become the case in the future.
How do I find a consultant?
The hard part is to find out which regulations apply to a certain product, and then find out how the actual process works.
The truth is that, at the time of writing, there are very few proper consulting firms that can help small to medium sized businesses with China product compliance.
There are, however, plenty of logistics companies that will only take care of the easy parts – but not offer any assistance whatsoever when it comes to product labeling, testing or documentation.
Likewise, there are many companies that know how to manage the process for their own products, or within a specific category – but cannot help outside of that.
I think this will change in 2018 and 2019, as we are just starting to see the opening of the Chinese ecommerce market.
How much should I expect to pay make sure my product is compliant?
This is the hundred thousand RMB question.
While the China government fees may only be a few hundred, or thousand RMB in total, you should budget for a lot more than that.
When you factor in consulting fees, lab testing and labels, you can easily be looking at 50,000 RMB and up.
See it as a learning process. Try to follow each step of the process at the start, to make sure that you can manage most of it when you start selling other products in the future.
Is lab testing mandatory?
That depends. For some categories, it is mandatory, but not for all.
Just keep in mind that product compliance and standardisation is a very fast moving area in China.
This article might be outdated in less than a year.
We’re selling online to consumers in China. Why should we care?
Because the Chinese customs have the right to seize and destroy any item that is non-compliant.
How often does that actually happen? Well, that depends on the product category.
Even if your stock is outside of China, you still want to avoid issues for your customers there.
If your stock is in China, then you must of course make sure it’s compliant before you can even get it cleared through customs.
We’re selling B2B to wholesalers and distributors. Shouldn’t the Chinese importer solve all certification issues?
It’s reasonable to think that compliance should be managed by the importer, rather than the exporter. After all, it’s their country, and they should know how to comply with local regulations.
That is, however, far from always the case.
If you keep track documentation and labeling requirements in China, you can get a major competitive advantage.
My products are already compliant in the EU and US. Do I still need to bother with Chinese standards?
Yes, it’s not a matter of Chinese product standards being better or worse than those in other markets.
It’s simply that CCC and CIQ are different regulations, with different labels and documents.
CCC is, for example, not interchangeable with CE in Europe. That said, a product that can pass all relevant CE tests, is most likely technically compliant with CCC.
Then again, it takes more than that to access the Mainland China market.
Do you want to learn more?
Export2Asia.com started as an offshoot to Chinaimportal.com. Our ambition is to provide free information to help European and US startups and small businesses export products to China.
In our Knowledge Base, we provide practical guides and articles, covering everything from starting your own Tmall Global store and product certification costs, to Wechat marketing and Baidu SEO.
Learn more on www.export2asia.com