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Foreign food imports tickling the palate
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Honey citron tea from South Korea, exotic sushi from Japan, choice cookies from Denmark, rare chocolate from Switzerland and ready-to-eat Indian dishes.


More and more foreign food is finding room in Chinese supermarket shelves, and spicing up the lives of residents.


The prices are much higher than for similar food manufactured at home, but sales have kept climbing.


Official figures show that imports of foreign food have been growing by an average 15 percent year on year in the past five years. The items cover a wide range, from fruit to meat, and seasonings to wine.


Zhang Zhenghua, deputy executive president of, which has assisted many foreign companies find business agents and buyers in China in recent years, said the trend is clearly discernible.


He said that the import of olive oil from Italy and brandy from France has soared in the past few years. China is also a big importer of pistachios, with the imports accounting for 10 percent of the total global output.


The rise in food imports is related to the drop of tariffs and rising demand from consumers, he said.


Most Chinese who buy foreign food are white-collar workers, the young or those who have lived overseas.


Xiong Qian, an export company employee, said she prefers imported black chocolate bars to the homemade variety.


"The reason is simple. Domestic producers still cannot produce pure black chocolate that can satisfy my taste," she said.


In some cases, foreign producers find local consumption to be amazing, and Zhang cites the sales of foreign alcohol as a case in point.


A bar in Hangzhou still holds the record for selling 9,000 bottles of 12-year-old Chivas Regal in a month. Each bottle sells for around 200 yuan ($27) in supermarkets, but could cost more than double in bars.


(China Daily January 8, 2008)

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