From the Field: In-Market Representative Reports – January 2021

January 2021 monthly update from our global network of In-Market Representatives about what's going on in markets around the world.

Food Export – Midwest and Food Export – Northeast have developed a network of uniquely experienced 19 overseas In-Market Representatives around the globe.  These local marketing experts with food industry experience provide on-the-ground help in assisting Food Export – Midwest and Food Export – Northeast to implement our various programs and services.

In addition, through regular trade servicing, these local representatives are aware of issues, trends and opportunities for international buyers to connect with suppliers of U.S. agricultural and food products.  Every month we will share with you some of the top market information from the trade servicing reports we receive to help you better your international exporting efforts.


Australian ports are experiencing major delays due to a two-month industrial action ceasefire. The Maritime Union of Australia and Patrick Terminals (Australian terminal operator) have still not reached an agreement on pay which coupled with the COVID-19 issues on supply chains are having far-reaching effects. The Australian ports are all backlogged, mainly on the east coast, and the backlog continues to grow every day as containers mount. According to supply chain management company, TM insight, many retailers are waiting on stock from other countries and have been informed that some ships have been turned around.

Now the issue is impacting retailers in New Zealand as well. Auckland port is running approximately 14 days behind. As a result, many retailers have reported key stock shortages. There are no signs of delays slowing down with suggestions it could be the second quarter of 2021 before there’s any sign of recovery.


COVID-19 Update

Recently China has detected novel Coronavirus on the packaging of various cold chain items in 2020, this is a major issue as they have become the world’s largest meat consumer.  The country’s meat processing industry is calling on exporters to step up sanitation protocols before products are shipped to China. China has ramped up disinfection and virus testing on frozen food after it found coronavirus on imported products and packaging.

Seafood Update

Seafood markets in one of China’s largest cities are banning vendors from selling or stocking imported seafood after a string of incidents in which the novel coronavirus was detected on foodstuffs of foreign origin.  Vendors at a wholesale market in Xi’an have signed a pledge not to bring imported product into the market or sell it. Media coverage linking COVID-19 to imported seafood has hammered demand in key markets like Xi’an and has sparked an upswell in demand for local products among consumers who have long purchased imported food products for their superior quality and safety.


There is a growing demand for sustainability among European shoppers. Based on the latest study conducted by the research institute Civey, 25 percent of customers are choosing their online shops based on their sustainable management concerning environmental and social standards. This concerns packaging as well as the product portfolio and reflects a trend that can be monitored in retail across the EU.

For American producers, this underlines the importance of a sustainable and future-oriented company profile to attract new consumers and be prepared for the upcoming decades. It is expected that the demand for sustainably produced foods and ecological-responsible sourcing and shipping will grow significantly in upcoming years.

Seafood Update

The EU and the UK have come to an agreement on fishing rights in UK waters in regards to Brexit. Both sides have agreed that 25% of the EU boat’s fishing rights in UK waters will be transferred to the UK fishing fleet over a period of five and a half years. This is known as the transition period (giving EU fleets time to get used to the new fishing relationship). The end date of this transition period will be June 20, 2026.


The Hong Kong government has launched a three-month consultation into the amendments made to the Harmful Substances in Food Regulations. The amendments will further regulate the use of three types of mycotoxins, setting up standards for the use of harmful substances in food including edible fats and oils, condiments and formula products and foods for infants. “Partially hydrogenated oils” will also be listed as a prohibited substance in food. Authorities suggest the amended regulations become effective 18 months afterwards, in order to provide sufficient time for food industries and testing laboratories to adapt and prepare themselves for the change in the updated food safety standards.


COVID-19 Update

COVID cases in Japan have surged dramatically over the past several weeks, exceeding 4,000 cases for the first time on January 1, 2020. As a result, the Japanese government declared a state of emergency on January 7th extending to February 7th. As part of the emergency declaration, restaurant and foodservice operators in the greater Tokyo metropolitan area will be asked to close by 8pm and establishments serving primarily alcohol to close even earlier at 7pm. The Japanese Foodservice Association announced that industry-wide foodservice revenues fell 7.8% in November compared to last year. This is the ninth straight month of declines.


Korea’s online market for food including both groceries and restaurant delivery has seen explosive growth during the pandemic. According to Statistics Korea, online food sales from January to October of 2020 amounted to 31.4 billion U.S. dollars. That’s an increase from a year earlier of 60.3%. Sales are expected to surpass 36 billion dollars by the end of 2020.

Online retail sales had a 17% jump in November 2020 compared to the same month in 2019, according to data from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. Overall retail sales were up 6.3% during the same month, due in part to an increase in food and home appliance sales.

As restaurants and cafes took a hit from strict social distancing measures, food delivery apps emerged as the biggest winners this year in retail as more people than ever ordered food from home to beat the pandemic blues. Even food businesses that previously had not provided takeaway registered on one or several of the delivery apps – Baemin, Yogiyo, Baedaltong, and the newer Coupang Eats.


COVID-19 Update

A new strain of COVID-19 has been identified in the UK. Although this strain is not believed to produce a more severe illness, it is more easily spread, leading to an alarming increase in the rate of transmission.

Due to this, a fourth tier has been introduced that effectively locks down a large portion of the UK population. Travel between the tiers is not permitted and more than 40 countries have now closed their borders to British travelers.

In December France chose to close its borders to freight from the UK causing long tailbacks at ports. Many foods are highly perishable which has led to losses. The UK exports €15 Billion of food and drink to the EU annually, a third of which is perishable meat, fish and fresh produce. Conversely, the UK imports €35 Billion of food and drink, the majority of which has a short shelf life making it vulnerable to delay.


There has been a surge in demand for healthy foods or immune-boosting, natural and organic products in Vietnam. Cooking and eating at home has become more common and Vietnamese consumers are showing readiness to pay more for high-quality and safe products. Consumers are looking for food brands to be more transparent by providing information involved in their supply chain and consistent nutrition information. Along with that, products with traceability and reliable quality are favored and maintain great growth potential.