Industry participants have expressed their optimism on the effects of China’s imminent entry into the World Trade Organisation. The quality and import amounts are expected to increase on a wide variety of domestic products, while the industry maintains its competitiveness.

Imports of palm oil and stearin, a solid derivative used for soap and cosmetics, are expected to surge once they are not limited by a quota system. Lee Sing Lee, of the Malaysian Palm Oil Promotion Council in China, estimated that post WTO imports would increase by at least 0.7m tons, because currently “stearin is being held hostage by the quotas because it is included (as a quota item).”

Bringing more stearin into the domestic market means more competition against the similar product tallow, made from animal fats. A spokesman for the Shanghai Soap Group, Lui Ji, believes that soap makers will prefer stearin because of its price and quality. Many soap producers are currently using pork lard, but as Lui explains, with stearin “we can improve the quality of our product.”

Palm oil also constitutes 25% of the weight of a packet of noodles, a product that is extremely popular on the Chinese market; over 14bn packets were sold last year, and consumption is expected to increase with increasing residual income. An engineer explained why substitutes are not as effective an ingredient: “[palm oil] fries the product. But more than that, it preserves it once its cooked.” When the import market opens up, noodle makers hope that increased accessibility to palm oil will increase their food market share.