China has said it will extend to April 2004 a measure which eases imports of genetically modified foods, but many traders are waiting for official documents confirming this before they commit to importing soybeans later this year.

“We are worried they might do something to disrupt soybean trade such as issuing the documents at the last minute and not giving us enough time to apply for the papers for soy shipments in August,” a trader with a global trading firm in Beijing was quoted by Reuters as saying.

In June 2001, China introduced new rules on the import of GM products which stipulated that soybean suppliers had to apply for import permits. After complaints from top soybean producers such as the US that the new rules hampered trade, China implemented a temporary measure, which allowed a simpler procedure. The temporary measure has already been extended from its original expiry date of 20 December 2002.

An official at the Agriculture Ministry’s office for GMOs told Reuters it would extend the measures which had been due to expire on 20 September 2003.