Photo: File
Photo: File Inga Williams

Six meat processing plants caught up in China ban named

CHINA has placed temporary export bans on six beef processing plants in Australia owned by five different companies.

The Weekly Times reported Trade Minister Steve Ciobo said it was "a very significant situation" and the government had "mobilised quickly" to engage Chinese authorities on the issue.

Mr Ciobo also confirmed there were a number of cargoes of beef at sea on the way to China from affected processors.

"It just reinforces the need to resolve this quickly," he said.

"We've got all options on the table."

The Weekly Times can confirm the six plants are :

  • JBS' Beef City and Scone plants
  • Thomas Food International's facility in Murray Bridge, South Australia
  • Northern Cooperative Meat Company's Casino processor
  • Kilcoy Pastoral
  • Australian Country Choice plant in Brisbane

The Australian Meat Industry Council said the suspensions applied to chilled and frozen beef and sheep meat from the six processing plants.

It understood the suspensions related to product sent from July 24 onwards.

The Federal Government was advised of China's temporary ban on Tuesday.

Mr Ciobo said he had spoken almost all of the chief executive officers of the affected processing companies and to the Australian embassy in Beijing.

"We have tens of millions (of dollars) in trade affected, it could even be more than 100 million (dollars)," he said.

"The Chinese have indicated concerns about labelling inconsistencies ... we take Chinese concerns seriously and we'll be engaging with them."

Meat processor sources claim the bans are in retaliation to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop's comments last week over freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

A spokeswoman for Ms Bishop said Chinese officials had not raised any concerns with the foreign minister or the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in relation to any recent statements.

"Australia's position on the South China Sea has been consistent over a number of years," she said.

One meat processor has also confirmed the temporary ban to The Weekly Times.

The processor said it came as China allowed access to up to a dozen new US beef plants in the past few days, after the US regained access to China's beef market in May.

And the issue centres on "equivalence", a trade agreement term where countries agree their different technical regulations achieve the same outcomes, to eliminate dubious trade barriers.

The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement came into force in December 2015.

The meat processor claimed ChAFTA did not have an equivalence cause, complicating resolution of the issue.

"It is a minor hiccup … if this happened in the US, the issue would be able to be corrected with the exporter without any trading halts," he said.

AMIC said China was an important meat export market for Australia, shipping 160,000 tonnes of beef and sheep meat valued at about $970 million in 2015-16.

China recently suspended the export licence on an infant milk formula plant acquired by Bellamy's Organic, an Australian dairy exporter.

That licensing issue has yet to be resolved.

News Corp Australia

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