Organic Food Sales in China

     China's organic food market is still facing an uphill challenge in a country where farmers are using pesticides and chemical fertilizers to boost production. 

     A tiny sector in China - organic and natural food - is benefiting from the middle- to upper-income, health-conscious consumer and overseas returnees -- but misinformation, lax regulations and questionable business practices are proving to be major stumbling blocks.

     At Lohao City Organic Store, sales have been growing at an average rate of 35 percent year-on-year. There are eight outlets in Beijing, six in Shenzhen, four in Chengdu and one each in Guangzhou and Tianjin.

     "Our position is clear: We require our suppliers to be certified by the central government agency (China Green Food Development Center). We do not accept certification by municipal or provincial governments, " said Terry Wu, general manager at Lohao City Organic Store.

     Foods from suppliers are put through stringent quality control by Lohao City's purchasing department, which will also ensure clear labeling in accordance with local and international standards.

     A clause in the purchase contract also ensures suppliers sign a guarantee to comply with China's  organic  regulations.

     "If they (the suppliers) can carry out this commitment, we'll stand beside their products. As retailers, we have to be responsible to our consumers, " said Wu.

     "In a nutshell, it's really about trust. I f there's no real policy at the national level, where should consumers go? Retailers, suppliers and consumers have to develop trust. And consumers need to educate themselves to make wise decisions. There's hope, however. "

     Wu spoke about a recent trip to Germany where he attended a food safety conference at which there was a sizable presence of Chinese companies involved in organic farming.

     "There will always be a few bad eggs but that shouldn't stop good work, " he said. 

     Food safety scandals, where industrial oils, acid, cancer-causing chemicals and heavy metal ingredients were found in some food products also help to divert more sales to organic and natural produce.