Wednesday, May 13, 2020

China Cracks Down on Meat Smuggling (Again)

Chinese customs authorities have been announcing seizures of smuggled meat products. This crackdown began in 2019 and seems to reflect a surge in smuggling prompted by a spike in Chinese meat prices last year that increased the trade's profitability.

The inspection bureau of the Huangpu port in Guangzhou says it has arrested 36 suspects and seized 4582 metric tons of frozen beef, chicken feet, and pork stomachs in a six-month crackdown. Customs and police jointly mobilized 458 officers to conduct 62 operations in Guangzhou, Dongguan, Shantou, Shenzhen and Guilin over the past six months. They arrested 36 suspects, bringing down this "huge gang" "in one fell swoop." Officials say a suspect received shipments of beef in Hong Kong, then transferred them to ports in Guangdong and stored them in warehouses. Customs inspectors say they saw large amounts of meat in boxes with foreign labels stored in a warehouse with fraudulent documents and inspection certificates, and no identification of final customers for the products.
Purportedly smuggled meat seized by Huangpu customs inspectors. 
The box bears the name of a Brazilian company.
Customs inspectors in Taizhou, a port in Zhejiang Province, have reported seizures of two separate smugglers' boats. In the Linhai District police said they intercepted a boat carrying over 83 metric tons of chicken, duck and pig feet and beef on April 16. Another article reports on a hearing in the Taizhou Procurate regarding the case of a man named Wang, his henchman Kong, and an 8-man crew of Myanmar nationals who allegedly smuggled 1,344 metric tons of meat from Busan South Korea to Taizhou until they were nabbed in April 2019. The origin of the meat was unknown.

Last month Shanghai authorities reported that smuggling cases reached a record high in 2019. Petroleum and sugar were the top items, but frozen meat was also tagged as a new target of smuggling.

Shenzhen authorities attributed a surge in smuggled meat in Pearl River ports since last year to the big difference between Chinese and foreign prices

Baoshan City in Yunnan Province reported intercepting 74,430 cigarettes, 130 metric tons of frozen meat and 1,926 live cattle in a smuggling crackdown on the Myanmar border that began February 20. The article reports an uptick in smuggling as companies have resumed operations after the lifting of covid-19 lockdowns. Tengzhong police say they have intercepted over 500 cattle and sheep being smuggled over the border.

In July 2019, official news media announced that surveillance of smuggled meat would be stepped up in Guangdong, Guangxi, Yunnan, and Hebei Provinces. According to the article, illegal meat from the United States, Brazil, Australia, and India is sold mainly to "western" and barbecue restaurants. The article quoted a post on social media by a self-described smuggler who promised cheap prices and large volumes, and he said there was great demand for smuggled meat. This article claimed smuggled meat arrived in Vietnam's Haiphong port and was carried across the border on boats, small trucks, and vans.

All of the articles emphasize food safety and disease risks introduced by smuggled meat, regularly reminding readers that smuggled meat can come from areas where disease is present, lacks inspection certificates, and often spoils because temperature is not consistently maintained. Many add comments about putrid meat and nasty smells. The Linhai report claims to have found high bacterial counts on meat they seized.

China's customs authorities report crackdowns on meat smuggling every year or two. Extremely high prices in China and onerous inspection and documentation requirements make the activity attractive. Past reports are available here.


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