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Yen for Chinese food? It'll cost you.

In an attempt to control export quality, China enforces new licensing procedures. The result: expensive Chinese dinners.

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The price of Chinese takeout food is about to go up. Chinese-Americans are already feeling the pinch, what with braised black bean dace – a popular fish imported from China – up from 50 cents to $1.39 a can and Chinese shiitake mushrooms up 60 percent over the past few weeks. Soon, price hikes are expected to hit anyone who ventures into a Chinese restaurant, thanks to the soaring prices of ingredients imported from China.

That's the unexpected fallout from China's crackdown following scandals involving tainted food exports.

As of Sept. 1, the central government there has stepped-up inspections of food exports, raised fees, and instituted new licensing procedures. Chinese food manufacturers have to file for licenses, and exporters have to obtain certificates of approval from several government agencies. The extra inspection fees and administrative delays, which boost storage costs, are beginning to ripple throughout the world.

"It's a huge blow to the industry," says Chan Hei, manager of Kam Man Food Products Inc., an importer who runs a chain of a dozen supermarkets in greater New York. His company, one of more than 200 Chinese-American food importers and wholesalers nationwide, buys more than $4 million worth of food from China every year just for its flagship store in New York's Chinatown.

Imported Chinese food and ingredients will cost 10 to 20 percent more at retail over the next few months, estimates Mr. Chan.

Not everything will rise in price. Many Chinese vegetables and fruits are already grown on Long Island, N.Y., in New Jersey, and in Florida.

But many staples of a typical Chinese dish do come from China. The price of a five-gallon canister of cooking oil has leaped from $14 to $25.50, says Amy Lin, manager of the Peking Garden on Broadway in Harlem.


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