Importing Food into Hong Kong

5 min read|Last Updated: September 13, 2021|

Just as is the case anywhere else in the world, there are several laws that exist in Hong Kong which govern food and its importation. These laws must be enforced in order to ensure the safety of everyone in Hong Kong when they buy, sell, or consume food.

The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department is responsible for the implementation of territory-wide laws and policies related to food safety control. It also enforces all legislation required to food. When it does so, it exercises the power which it has been granted according to Section 62(1) of the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap. 132). This ordinance allows officials from the Department to procure food samples at any of various points of entry into the territory. These samples are usually tested; some of the tests involved typically include chemical analyses and microbiological examinations.

In Hong Kong, the primary pieces of food safety control legislation are Part V of the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap. 132) and all subsidiary pieces of legislation accompanying this law. The most fundamental tenet of food safety laws in Hong Kong as stated in Section 54 of the Ordinance is that no food to be sold in Hong Kong ought to be unfit for human consumption.

Food importers are responsible for ensuring that the food items they have procured are compliant with the local legislation. They do so by remaining in close contact with exporters. To ensure the upholding of adequate food hygiene standard, importers are encouraged to obtain health certificates issued by relevant foreign entities. Such certificates are to accompany their imports and will certify that the food products that they have brought into Hong Kong are fit for human consumption.

The high-risk nature of specific food items necessitates that additional legal criteria be imposed upon such items. Such has to be the case for public health reasons. These food items include game, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, milk beverages, frozen confections, and marine products.

The importation of such food items is governed by subsidiary legislation of the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap. 132). Those who plan to import game or eggs into Hong Kong require the permission of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department before they may do so. Additionally, the importation of meat, poultry, or eggs is restricted to imports from sources which have received official approval from the Department. Before importers are allowed to release any imported food, they are required to provide health certificates which have been issued by official entities of exporting countries. The importation of food items other than those which have been mentioned does not require official approval from any authorities.


Official Guidelines for the Importation of Food into Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s Centre for Food Safety, which is run by the Hong Kong government, has provided certain official guidelines with regard to the importation of certain food items into Hong Kong. These food items are the high-risk food items upon which additional legal criteria are imposed; thus, they include meats of all sorts, dairy products, eggs, and marine products. There are also guidelines related to food recalls as well as guidelines related to pesticide residues in food which is to be sold or consumed in Hong Kong. The Centre for Food Safety has also formulated a code of hygienic practice which is to be applied to packaged low-acid and aseptically produced foods.

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Want to Start business in Singapore

Cost of Importing Food into Hong Kong

As is the case all over the world, import prices in Hong Kong are affected by exchange rates. This is also true of prices related to the importation of food. Import prices in Hong Kong have generally remained fairly constant and have only had minor changes in recent times. However, Hong Kong’s import prices did reach a peak in October 2018. Due to the use of different currencies around the world, import prices are calculated not in money, but in Index Points; in October 2018, import prices in Hong Kong were 105.8 Index Points.

All goods imported into Hong Kong, including food items, remain unaffected by a customs tariff because Hong Kong does not impose one. While excise duties do exist in Hong Kong, they do not apply to food items which enter Hong Kong. Excise duties in Hong Kong are only imposed upon imports methyl alcohol, tobacco, alcoholic beverages, and hydrocarbon oil.


Process of Importing Food into Hong Kong

The process of importation of food is an intricate and complex one. This process must, of course, begin with the appropriate sourcing of products. This is done by identifying potential suppliers who are expected to provide a suitable source from which food products can be derived. Enquiries should also be sent to suppliers who may be used for food importation purposes. Suitable distribution channels also need to be taken into consideration.

Trade regulations must be followed when importing food items into Hong Kong. Such trade regulations include all import regulations and requirements which exist in Hong Kong. Those who are importing the food items must also check if any import licenses are required.

Once the products have been sourced and all trade regulations have been followed, the importer must then consider the terms which have been set by the supplier. Such terms may include the

sales contract as well as any other terms of the transaction. Should the importer deem all sales and payment terms acceptable, the importer may then begin to purchase the products in question from the supplier. It is often advisable for importers to also have a valid insurance scheme in place. This is because there is always a possibility that something may not go according to plan at this stage; thus, insurance will shield the importer from experiencing excessive losses.

The next step is the actual acquisition of the food products. This takes place after the importer receives due notice of the products which have been imported. The importer will then receive export documents from the exporter before collecting the goods in question.

After the food items have received due clearance from Hong Kong’s customs officials, it can be said that the food items in question have officially been imported into Hong Kong.

Importing Food into Hong Kong FAQs

How has Hong Kong’s Food Industry grown in relation to its Economy?2020-02-17T08:15:24+00:00

Food imports to Hong Kong have aided in its current upward trajectory. According to the latest figures, the retail food industry in Hong Kong most recently grew by 1.8%, while the food service sector of Hong Kong posted an impressive financial growth rate of 4.9%. These figures show that the growth of Hong Kong’s food industry is outpacing the growth of its economy as a whole. Current statistics show that Hong Kong’s most recent GDP growth rate was 0.5%. Thus, the influx of food imports into Hong Kong has proven to have had a very positive impact upon the well-being of its food industry.

Which Countries send the Largest Quantities of Food into Hong Kong?2020-02-17T08:17:12+00:00

The country from which Hong Kong imports the most food is China. This fact should not come as a surprise because of its proximity. According to the latest statistics, 23.5% of all food and over 50% of all fresh food which had been imported into Hong Kong came from China.

Therefore, Hong Kong’s food market is heavily impacted by changes in the quantity, safety levels, and cost of food produced in China. Such changes have a clear effect on consumer demand for such food products in Hong Kong. Of course, China is not the only country from which Hong Kong imports much food. Other countries which contribute much of Hong Kong’s imported food supply include the United States, Brazil, the Netherlands, and Thailand. The latest statistics show that these four countries combine to supply almost 40% of all of the imported food in Hong Kong.

Which Food Products are most likely to be Imported into Hong Kong?2020-02-17T08:19:11+00:00

Hong Kong is one of the areas of the world which is deemed to be “food-vulnerable”. This means that Hong Kong is a location in which the vast majority of its food supply is imported. Hong Kong’s government has confirmed that approximately 90% of its food supply is imported from other countries. The food products which are imported into Hong Kong in the greatest quantities are beef, pork, fruit, vegetables, and salmon.

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