Tuesday, December 27, 2011

AQSIQ Preparing Crackdown on Meat Imports?

There has been a fair amount of agitation in the Chinese pork industry about the surge in pork imports this year.   Quite a few industry people blame the recent decline in pork prices on rising imports. (The dimsums blog posted an article on this earlier this month.) When China wants to shut down imports, authorities typically use the pretext of a disease, pest, or food safety problem to reject imports. During most of 2010 China shut down pork imports from North America after a brief H1N1 scare. It took over a year to lift the ban, coincidentally during a period when pork prices in China were depressed.

In view of the agitation against imports, it is perhaps ominous that AQSIQ (China's quarantine and inspection authority) held a meeting on December 26 to discuss strengthening inspection and quarantine measures specifically for imported meat. The vice director of the bureau chaired the meeting held in Tianjin.

The article reveals no specific measures. The vice chairman calls for inspectors to address unspecified "continuing problems."  He tells officials to strive to improve the quarantine supervision system for imported meat products, using the most effective measures for strict supervision to maintain quality.

Alternatively, the AQSIQ meeting could portend a crack-down on meat smuggling. Dimsums previously reported on the widespread smuggling of poultry that surged after China imposed countervailing duties on U.S. poultry (mostly chicken feet) a year ago. Beef smuggling has been going on since China banned North American beef imports after the discovery of a BSE case in 2003.

Ironically, the AQSIQ meeting about the urgency of improving the quality and safety of imported meat came the day after another branch of the bureau revealed that it found salbutamol in products of a well-known meat company based in Tianjin, the same city where the meeting was held.

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