China Says Meat Exporters Suspend Shipments Over Virus

Shipping containers ready to go to ports unknown. ( Pixabay/MGN )

(Reuters) - China, the world's top meat importer, said on Tuesday a Brazilian beef exporter and a pork plant in Britain had voluntarily suspended exports because of coronavirus infections.

Many meat exporting nations, such as Brazil and the United States, have seen thousands of cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, among workers in meat plants.

Brazil's Agra Agroindustrial De Alimentos S.A. had voluntarily halted beef exports to China after a virus infection among its workforce, the General Administration of Customs said on its website.

In a separate statement on its Weibo social media account, the department added that Britain's Tulip had voluntarily suspended all pork exports from its Tipton plant in the West Midlands because of a virus outbreak.

China has stepped up inspections of meat imports after a new cluster of virus infections in Beijing was linked to the capital's huge Xinfadi wholesale food market.

Beijing has started testing meat, seafood and fresh produce, with some major Chinese ports opening all meat and seafood containers for virus tests.

Last week, Chinese customs asked food exporters for signed declarations that their produce was free of virus contamination.

On Sunday, China said it had suspended poultry imports from a U.S.-based meat plant of Tyson Inc after earlier halting pork products from German processor Toennies.

China's meat imports in the first five months of 2020 soared 73.4% on the year to 3.85 million tonnes.

The world's top pork consumer imported a monthly record volume of 400,000 tonnes in April as domestic output plunged after an outbreak of African swine fever hit its pig herd in late 2018.

(Reporting by Shivani Singh, Colin Qian and Lusha Zhang; Editing by Tom Hogue and Clarence Fernandez)