Chinese has threatened to block all hog and beef imports, with obvious political undertones
OTTAWA – Blocking Canadian pork and beef shipments appears to be Beijing’s latest bully tactic to force Canada to release a hi-tech executive arrested in Vancouver under a U.S. extradition request.
China said it was considering a halt in all meat exports after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) notified Beijing in mid-June it had discovered a number of inauthentic veterinary health certificates in some meat products bound for China, the Canadian Pork Council (CPC) said.
CFIA temporarily halted as of June 25 issuing new export certificates for Canadian meat bound for China until it can complete an investigation of the situation, CPC said.
“This halt in Canadian exports is not the result of a food safety concern but the misuse of Canada’s reputation as a supplier of safe quality products,” CPC said.
It, Canadian Meat Council and Canada Pork International “are working closely with government officials to better understand the situation and identify potential next steps. We are aware that Canadian government officials have been in contact with their Chinese counterparts and are hopeful this will lead to a quick resolution.”
International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr told reporters in Toronto the incident involved forged export certificates and the government is trying to get answers as quickly as possible.
“Somebody is trying to use the Canadian brand to move product into the Chinese market,” he said. “There’s an investigation going forward, and we’re taking it seriously and working very hard to get to the bottom of it.”
“CFIA has taken measures to address this issue and is continuing to work closely with industry partners and Chinese officials,” Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said. “CFIA is investigating this technical issue and has informed appropriate law enforcement agencies. This incident is specific to export certificates to China. Export certificates to other countries are not affected.” The government will back Canadian producers and continue to work to diversify trade to “ensure farmers have access to new markets.”
The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association said it learned June 25 of the discovery of the fake certificates. “We understand the suspension will be temporary and that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and other appropriate law enforcement agencies are currently investigating,” said CCA Vice-President Bob Lowe. “We believe that shipments that are already in transit to China will be allowed to pass through customs. It is unclear why beef products have been included in this suspension.”
When informed about the certificates by the CFIA, China used the situation to ramp up the pressure on Canada rather than letting CFIA complete its investigation. It claimed to have found 188 fake export certificates.
In 2018, Canada shipped $514 million worth of pork to China, the third largest export market for the meat. Sales in 2019 have increased by 50 per cent over 2018 levels.
China already has halted imports from three Canadian pork producers over food safety issues. The previous incident involved alleged residues of ractopamine, a feed additive China doesn’t allow but Canada, the U.S. and many others do.
China cancelled Winnipeg-based agricultural handler Richardson International’s registration, effectivity forbidding the company to export canola seed to the country.
China said it made the move due to fears that Canadian canola was tainted by an insect infestation. Canada says it has conducted tests on the canola and has not found any pests or bacteria of concern.