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China’s top 10 wine importing countries in 2018

In line with Chinese customs figures, China’s imported wine experienced its first volume drop since 2014, with a moderate increase in value, the latest figures released by the country’s official trade organisation have revealed.

China imports

The newly released figures from the China Association Of Imports And Export Of Wine & Spirits (CAWS) showed that the country’s overall wine imports in 2018 dropped 8.26% in volume to 687.5 million litres, while its import value remained more or less the same with a 2.12% increase to US$2.85 billion, with exports hit by the country’s slowing economy and US-China trade war.

Earlier figures released by Chinese customs showed the country’s import volume dropped 8.95% and value was level with a 1.1% increase.

The discrepancy could be due to the fact that CAWS compiled its figures from its members, consisting of wine importers and merchants, while Chinese customs figures include statistics from importers as well as logistics companies.

The shared feeling among the trade is that the country’s slowing economy, the worst in 28 years since 1990, and the uncertainties from the US-China trade war, as well as depreciated RMB, China’s official currency, are bearing down on the wine market, and are likely to play out for 2019.

“We believe key challenges will be overall on the economic and financial side of Chinese economy. Besides the current slowdown, several key players in B2B are facing financial constraints to continue to maintain or grow their operations, whether in retail or wholesale. Same for corporate businesses which are entertaining less or cutting budgets. And of course end consumers are much more cautious now than before, and one of the main effects in the last years is seeing them consuming less in China but spending overseas,” Alberto Fernandez, managing partner of Torres China, told dbHK.

In contrast to the earlier customs figures that showed France, Australia, Spain and Italy all saw value drops in 2018, CAWS figures however showed that, for bottled wine imports at least, only France experienced a value dip.

Based on the country of origins for imported bottled wine, France still remains China’s biggest wine source for bottled wine imports.

Australian wine imports, based on CAWS figures, saw growth both in volume and value with gap between France narrowing gradually.

Chile’s volume and value remained more or less the same as 2017 with 0.01% increase in volume and 0.47% increase in import value.

Italy’s import volume remained unchanged with value grew by 4.92%, according to the CAWS data.

Spain suffered a 13.75% drop in import volume but value increased by 3.19%.

The country’s bulk wine imports dropped by 11.04% during the year to 160.6 million litres, while its value grew by 17.51% to US$186.7 million.

Click through the pages to find out China’s top 10 importing countries in 2018. More in-depth analysis on China’s wine market with leading wine importers will appear in dbHK Feb/March issue. Stay tuned. 

No. 10 Germany 

Import volume for bottled wines: 5.17 million litres (+12.44%)

Import value for bottled wines: US$25.8 million (+23.85%)

Germany and South Africa are two countries among the top 10 importers that saw double-digit growth both in volume and value in 2018. During the year, China imported 5.17 million litres of wine from Germany worth about US$25.8 million, signalling a leap for the country as it had dropped out of the top 10 in 2017’s ranking.

No. 9 Argentina 

Import volume for bottled wines: 5.23 million litres (+2.98%)

Import value for bottled wines: US$26.18 million (+17.58%)

Argentina’s ranking in 2018 climbed up one spot as China’s ninth biggest import country for imported bottled wines. Its import value saw a notable increase of 17.58% year-on-year to US$26.18 million during the year for 5.23 million litres of wine, thanks to a 14% increase in the average import price of US$5.1 per litre.

Its market share however is meagre, clocking at 1%, same as Germany.

No. 8 New Zealand 

Import volume for bottled wines: 2.52 million litres (-8.46%)

Import value for bottled wines: US$28.77 million (-2.09%)

New Zealand’s ranking dropped one spot in 2018 compared with 2017, as both its volume and value dropped during the year.

Its import volume dropped by 8.46% year-on-year to 2.52 million litres, consequently its value also declined by 2.09% to US$28.77 million.

Its import value however still remains the highest among all countries at US$11.4 per litre. Its market share in China stands at 1.1%. 

No. 7 South Africa 

Import volume for bottled wines: 9.8 million litres (+17.58%)

Import value for bottled wines: US$32.9 million (+32.42%)

South Africa saw the strongest growth among all countries in China last year, as the country reinforces its promotional campaigns in the region with tastings in major mainland cities and Hong Kong.

Its import volume climbed by 17.58% in 2018 compared with 2017 to 9.8 million litres, while its value increased even further to US$32.9 million, a 32.4% increase year-on-year.

Its overall ranking however remains unchanged as 2017.


No. 6 The US 

Import volume for bottled wines: 12.8 million litres (+10.62%)

Import value for bottled wines: US$75.5 million (-5.22%)

Unsurprisingly, American wine imports to China suffered a drop in value in 2018, as a result of the tit-for-tat China-US trade war after China raised import tariffs on American wines to 39% compared with the more regular 14% in retaliation to similar moves by the Trump administration.

Import value declined by 5.22% to US$75.5 million compared with 2017, while its import volume grew to 12.8 million litres, up by 10.62% year-on-year, suggesting a drop in average import price.

Indeed, the average import price per litre dipped by 14% to US$5.01. Its market share in China still remains less than 3% at 2.8%.

No. 5 Spain

Import volume for bottled wines: 61.2 million litres (-13.75%)

Import value for bottled wines: US$162.1 million (+3.19%)

Spain’s ranking slid from fourth in 2017 to fifth in 2018, mainly affected by a drop in volume. Import volume during the year declined by 13.75% to 61.2 million litres for a total of US$162.1 million worth of wines, taking up about 6.1% market share.

Its average import price for bottled wines ranks as the lowest among all countries at US$2.65 per litre.

No. 4 Italy

Import volume for imported wines: 36.03 million litres (0%)

Import value for imported wines: US$168.4 million (+4.92%)

Italy managed to see its value grow despite a largely unchanged import volume in 2018, which means the country enjoyed a rise in its average import price.

During the course of last year, China imported US$168.4 million worth of Italian wines totalling 36.03 million litres.

Its rank climbed up by one spot, leaving it with an overall market share of 6.3%.

No. 3 Chile

Import volume for imported wines:74.67 million litres (+0.01%)

Import value for imported wines: US$269.7 million (0.47%)

Chile’s growth momentum in China remains strong, thanks to its wines’ competitive prices, its Free Trade Agreement, and active campaigns and promotions across mainland China.

The country ranks as China’s third largest wine importer in 2018, with 74.6 million litres of wine worth about US$269.7 million.

No. 2 Australia 

Import volume for imported wines: 119.3 million litres (+11.83%)

Import value for imported wines: US$723.25 million (+5.41%)

Australia’s position in China was further enhanced in 2018 as its momentum continues during an otherwise adverse economic environment. China remains its most lucrative export market, and figures from Wine Australia prove it.

During 2018, Australian imports to China grew by 5.41% in value year-on-year to US$723.25 million, and its import volume increased by a further 11.83% to 119.3 million litres. Starting from January this year, China has completely eradicated all import tariffs on Australian products, further clearing hurdles for its growth, though blistering pace like before is unlikely.

Managing expectations, as David Lucas, regional manager for Greater China at Wine Australia, told dbHK in an interview, is one of the biggest challenges for Australian producers.

“Managing expectation is probably one of the biggest challenges I see – all countries are focused on China and therefore competition will continue to be intense. We will stick to our core strengths and continue our aggressive activity programmes thanks to the Australian Government’s A$50m package,” he explained. 

No. 1 France 

Import volume for imported wines: 173.83 million litres (-21.06%)

Import value for imported wines: US$1.058 billion (-3.08%)

France still remains China’s biggest imported wine source, but its lead over Australia is narrowing especially as its import volume and value are both declining though its market share stands at 39.7% ahead of Australia’s 27.1%.

French wines still remain Chinese drinkers’ number one go-to source but its image is risking “getting a bit tired”, as Alberto Fernandez from Torres China says.

The country’s overall sales of wine and spirits to China, its third biggest export market, in 2018 consequently dropped by 14.4% in value to €1 billion, according to the latest figures released by The Federation for Wine and Spirit Exporters (FEVS).

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