Canadian meat industry executives say China’s plans to boost inspections of imported Canadian meats and meat products could have “a disastrous effect” on their business.
China has already blocked imports of Canadian canola seed and temporarily suspended permits from two Canadian pork plants, Reuters reported. This comes at a time when Beijing is demanding Ottawa return a Chinese tech executive who is facing extradition to the U.S.
According to a Canadian agriculture ministry notice, the Canadian Embassy in Beijing had been informed that Chinese customs agents would open all containers of Canadian meat and meat products. In some cases, they would inspect 100% of the contents.
Why these measures? Chinese officials said it was due to “recent cases of non-compliance of pork shipments,” adding that the move was linked to the risk of African swine fever (ASF) and anti-smuggling measures, Reuters said.
The global livestock market is keeping tabs on China as ASF has destroyed millions of animals in the world’s top pork producing country since August 2018.
Although the Canadian Pork Council said the inspection issue was linked to problems with supporting documents and not food safety, the Canadian Meat Council (CMC), which represents major processors, has told its members to increase surveillance and compliance with all requirements” for exports.
During the first three months of 2019, China was Canada’s third biggest pork export market, taking in $160.5 million of Canada’s pork and pork products. Over that period, China was also Canada’s third-biggest export market for beef and veal, according to Statistics Canada.
Canadian Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said in a statement that Ottawa was working with producers “to underscore the importance of heightened quality assurance efforts to ensure there are no trade disruptions due to administrative errors.”
The increased meat inspections were not a form of retaliation, said Lu Shaye, China’s Ambassador to Canada.