June 18, 2020
Meat importers in China concerned over COVID-19 inspection delays at ports
China's meat importers are worried over cargo clearing delays and reduced demand after Tianjin port introduced mandatory COVID-19 inspections for all imported meat and seafood, Reuters reported.
Two importers and an official saidfrom June 15, Tianjin, Beijing's primary port began testing batches of meat and seafood. Tianjin port and customs officials did not reply to comment enquiries.
Another meat imports major port, Shanghai, said it will implement stricter inspections of meat, seafood, fruit and vegetables entering the port. It did not state specifically if COVID-19 tests will be conducted.
China is the biggest importer of meat in the world, but many countries that export meat such as Brazil and the United States have reported thousands of COVID-19 infections among its meat plant workers.
Grace Gao, Goldrich International manager, a meat importer based in Dalian said authorities normally perform tests for food safety on 10% of frozen meat shipments. Now, all containers are opened for COVID-19 tests in Tianjin.
The strict testing measures are related to the COVID-19 outbreak discovered at Beijing's Xinfadi wholesale market.
Fu, a manager from Haiyunda Trading told Reuters that all beef batches produced on the same date will be tested for COVID-19. In addition, all cold storage meat that arrived after March 1 must be sealed and tested before it leaves port.
Gao is concerned that upcoming shipments to Tianjin, Shanghai and Guangzhou will be backlogged due to the COVID-19 tests.
According to the United States Meat Export Federation, there has been little disruption to exports from the country.
Peter Cassel, a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) spokesman said the regulator knows that China has begun testing meat and seafood but is unaware if there are any COVID-19 linked cases to these foods or if the virus can be transmitted from the food or its packaging.
Meat importers are worried that other ports in China will follow Tianjin's example. Gao said a positive virus discovery will decimate consumer demand.
Fu said he aims to import from countries marginally affected by COVID-19 such as Europe and Kazakhstan.