China bans chilled beef imports

26 Sep, 2013 06:41 AM

CHINA has banned imports of chilled Australian beef citing concerns over food safety, but the measure is being viewed by producers as a non-tariff barrier designed to protect the local industry.

The ban was issued on August 26 and is shaping up as an early test of how the Abbott government handles the sometimes fraught relationship with Australia's biggest trading partner.

Trade Minister Andrew Robb is about to restart talks on a free-trade agreement with China, in which agriculture will be a key negotiating area.

Mr Robb acknowledged China had "queried" the standards of Australian chilled beef and said he was working to resolve the issue.

"Australia has a reputation second-to-none in the standards we adhere to," he said.

Suspicions around the validity of Beijing's safety concerns became apparent when Chinese authorities said they may consider allowing imports to restart under a quota system if shortages eventuated. China also allowed into the country any imports that were on route when the ban was issued.

Chilled beef shipments to China have surged 873 per cent over the last year, due to a crackdown on smuggling and a series of food scandals involving local producers.

Chilled cuts, which are usually sold to high-end restaurants and five-star hotels, accounted for 18 per cent of Australian beef exports to China in terms of value, over the first seven months of the year. The total trade is expected to reach $600 million this year, making China the third-biggest export market behind Japan and the United States.

One Australian exporter, who asked not to be named, said the ban was about protecting local producers who had been squeezed out of the market by surging imports.

Another industry figure in Shanghai said the ban was "totally political" and was due to concerns from the local industry that Australian exports had grown too quickly.

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman, whose state is a big beef producer and is on a trade mission in China, said the situation had been raised with him and he was "concerned".

"We would really like to see chilled beef as a product line built up because it's the best quality product that could be delivered and there should be no impediment to it."

China's Food Safety Commission was upgraded to Ministry level in March and it was headed by Premier Li Keqiang until this month.

The commission is now led by Vice- Premier Zhang Gaoli, who has responsibility for the economy and is a member the Politburo Standing Committee, China's top decision making body.

The Australian Financial Review has been told that Chinese authorities are no longer accepting chilled beef, as Australian abattoirs did not have the correct certification. Prior to this abattoirs were certified for both chilled and frozen beef exports to China.

But this is no longer the case and big meat processors such as JBS and Teys are now facing a lengthy certifications process before exports can resume.

On the basis of this "advice" from the Chinese, Australian quarantine authorities have stopped issuing export certificates for chilled beef.

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26/09/2013 7:15:56 AM

Australia, the only country in the world that DOSEN'T put local producers first.
wanting a fair go
26/09/2013 7:52:06 AM

This is an example of Government (Australian) taking their eyes off the prize, suggesting of course they actually had it in their sights. Where is the Minister here? why has this not made national news? Andrew Robb should be on a plane trying to sort this out. But for the lucky few who have an Ausmeat export license they would be feeling the pinch, for those that are waiting to do this perhaps means a longer waiting time and no assistance. The Government should be running this course instead of sanctioning it through DAFF. The more armed with knowledge the better the outcomes, surely
26/09/2013 8:30:26 AM

Thats ok,just give the farmers a subsidy like the car industry receives,year in year out.
26/09/2013 9:43:15 AM

China isnt really a big market - if each Chinese ate 5 kg/year of Aus beef ... pop 1 billion...hang on, thats 15 million bullocks!!!!
26/09/2013 10:21:52 AM

Looks as though China protects its own farmers. Funny that doesn't happen here in good old Aus. Famers are expendable here!!
26/09/2013 10:56:37 AM

The United Nations statute 21 which "voluntarily" legislated a worldwide end to meat production via the guise of environmental sustainability in favor of cereal production word wide- about 1987 - amongst a raft of other things to be eliminated globally - will love the progress being made to downsize the beef industry in Aus. Google Statute 21 and see what you find - pretty interesting - hope they don't achieve their aims though.
26/09/2013 11:04:08 AM

Local producers would just be happy with not being put last qlander. All that is needed is a bit of strategic thinking. Why give foreign buyers special treatment not available to locals? Why not specifically counter foreign countries protectionist measures that disadvantage us, with our own targeted measures? Why just keep forcing our producers to quit the industry by handicapping them more heavily than foreign investors, just so that they get help with our taxes to take us over? They are obviously already getting help from their own Govt's at home!
26/09/2013 11:11:03 AM

And where are all the comments from the proponents of stopping live export in favour of processing here in Australia now. Just another example of why producers need all the markets they can get, live export, carcase, boxed, frozen and chilled.
beef farmer
26/09/2013 11:47:56 AM

Bang on jillaroo. there is a global push to destroy the meat industry. from hollywood movies, to kids cartoons featuring cute edible animals (peppa pog, shawn the sheep, etc), to straight out trade sabotage with disease finds that never existed. get angry because our own govt is complicit in this meat industry sabotage
john from tamworth
26/09/2013 12:04:02 PM

Max,that is absolutely right.The rent seekers at the union and the processors have teamed up to totally stop all live exports.Beef processing is a no growth, sunset industry and they need to be able to continually pass their costs back to producers.
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