Visit of Mr. Ducarme, Minister of Agriculture and SME
Beginning this week, Mr Denis Ducarme, the Belgian Minister of Agriculture and SMEs came to visit China with his delegation consisting mainly of representatives of Belgian companies active in the agribusiness and F&B industry.
The delegation visited JD.com, one of the two largest B2C online retailers in China. This company visit aimed at showing and understanding the market and scale of the Chinese e-commerce environment, their innovation and automation. Following, JD Imported F&B Products and JD Fresh Food Departments gave the delegation an introductory presentation on their respective departments. A B2B matchmaking session was also organized where the companies from the meat and beer sector could further discuss how Belgian products can be promoted and sold more effectively on the Chinese market. After the visit to JD.com, a business lunch organized by BenCham, together with the EU SME Centre and the Belgian Embassy took place. Mr Rafael Jimenez Business Development Advisor at the EU SME Centre gave a presentation to the delegation on the topic of “Agro-food and SMEs in China”. He highlighted that the overall beer consumption in China went up by 12,7% in 2017, and Belgian beer consumption increased by about 30% in 2017, ranking third in terms of revenue behind Germany and Mexico. In contrast, Chinese consumers have bought less chocolate in 2017, the overall consumption of chocolate fell by 3,4%. Belgian chocolate, however, was favoured by many more consumer, resulting in an increase of 17,5% in value. In a nutshell, Chinese consumers are getting more aware of where their products come from and, therefore, are also pickier when it comes to tastes. Thus, for European SMEs it is crucial to know how the Chinese consumer behaves as well as how the trends in Chinese consumer tastes are shifting.
Next, Xavier Sans Powell, gave a summary of China’s political environment to the delegation, taking into account, Rafael’s presentation. He underlined the priorities of the 19th National Congress where the Party set their goals aiming at quality instead of quantity, a strong China with a strong industry leading to a strong Party, a more assertive foreign policy as well as poverty alleviation. In addition, development should be people-centred. Xavier’s main key recommendations include better financing access for European SMEs in China and to ensure reasonable payment terms and enforce timely payments to alleviate the cash-flow burdens of SMEs in China. It is also important to promote coordination between different administrative departments and to improve the transparency, clarity and integrity of all relevant regulations for SMEs. Lastly, the value of Intellectual Property Right (IPR) must be protected and enforcement systems should be implemented at the consumer, business and local government levels.