Exporting dairy products to China: Key opportunities and challenges

Understanding the Chinese dairy market

Major exporters and market dynamics

China is the world’s largest dairy market, and one of the world’s largest dairy consumers. Despite this, China’s dairy production is not self-sufficient, and recent years have seen their productivity decline. Additionally, past events such as the 2008 Milk Scandal have public sentiment toward domestic dairy produce. This leaves the door open to producers looking to export dairy products to China.

Currently, New Zealand and Australia account for almost 60 percent of dairy exports to China, spurred on by recently upgraded trade agreements. The European Union and United States make up the rest of major global exporters.

Lactose intolerance: A key issue

Approximately 92% of the Chinese adult population is lactose intolerant. This significant dietary need has been largely overlooked by major dairy exporters. Understanding this paradox and catering to lactose-free or low-lactose products can open new avenues for exporters.

Demand for Variety

With the growth in demand, China’s market has seen the successful introduction of various new dairy products like low-fat yogurts and cheese snacks. Exporters must recognise these trends and align their product offerings accordingly.

Five steps to exporting dairy products to China

In order to export dairy products to China organisations must

  1. Apply for the sanitary certificate: This process can take up to 6 months and includes facility inspections depending on the type of dairy product.
  2. Register with AQSIQ: Register as a foodstuffs exporter and dairy exporter to China, which may require further inspections.
  3. Prepare products for export: Ensure that the labelling includes all necessary information like storage conditions and ingredients list.
  4. Prepare export documents: This includes certificates, commercial invoices, customs import declaration, and quarantine reports.
  5. Customs inspection and taxes: Conclude the exporting process after the customs inspection, and pay the necessary Import Duties, Value Added Tax, and Consumption Tax.

Market opportunities

Exporting dairy products to China presents a massive market opportunity. By understanding the unique dietary needs, market trends, and following the correct exporting stages, success in China’s dairy market is achievable. The strategic move to export products to China, coupled with a focus on quality and compliance, can lead to rapid success.


At Farrelly & Mitchell, our food and agribusiness experts provide a wide range of consulting services tailored to the specific needs of the agrifood industry. Whether it’s understanding the unique dietary needs of China’s dairy market or developing global sales and distribution strategies, we support our clients with clear evidence and experience-based insights.


Our services range from processing, manufacturing, and supply chain optimisation to market intelligence and feasibility studies. We enable clients to make informed decisions, ensuring that they stay ahead of emerging industry trends and challenges.

If you are looking for expert guidance and support, get in touch with us to learn how we can help you achieve your goals.

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Michael Sweeney

Senior Researcher

Michael is a senior agri-food economist with Farrelly & Mitchell and has consulted on numerous assignments across Europe, Middle East, Africa and globally.


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