Six Australian meat companies have been barred from selling beef and lamb to China because labels on the produce did not comply with paperwork.
But market watchers in Australia suspect the meat export bans are tit-for-tat retaliation for Canberra’s decision earlier this year to ban all imports of fresh and cooked prawns from China.
The prawn ban was imposed by Australia’s agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce after an outbreak of white spot disease hit several prawn farms in southern Queensland. In late June, Australia announced the resumption of raw prawn imports but with “strict new conditions” on shipments.
Whatever the reason behind the Chinese action, Australia’s meat traders will be keen for the matter to be resolved quickly as China has the potential to be a lucrative export market.
The meat processing works affected by the Chinese ban include the Kilcoy abattoir at Gympie, Queensland, and two run by the country’s world’s biggest meat business, JBS, at Scone in New South Wales, and in Beef City near Toowoomba, Queensland.
China has given the Australian exporters 45 days to address the mislabelling concerns.
The country’s trade minister, Steven Ciobo, told Australian broadcaster ABC he intended to work closely and constructively with industry and China to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.
“This is obviously a very material situation,” he said. “We’ve got, potentially, very significant amounts of trade involved in this and so it’s a matter that I’m very mobilised on, my team, my office, as well as our embassy in China.”