11/16/2020, 16.00
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After traces of coronavirus are found on imported meat, China sanctions Argentine company

by Silvina Premat

The shipment was unloaded at the port of Shanghai, but the finding was made at a storage facility in Nanjing. Argentine authorities have doubts, noting that their meat meets required standards. According to analysts, this could be part of a strategy by Beijing to get lower prices.

Buenos Aires (Asia News) – The Chinese government suspended imports from an Argentine meat producer after finding traces of coronavirus on the external packaging of a beef shipment from the Latin American country. In Argentina, this is raising suspicions that China might be trying to push prices down.

The finding was not reported by General Administration of Customs of China (GACC) at the point of entry in Shanghai but at a cold-storage facility in Nanjing. The nucleic acid testing (for coronavirus genetic material) was not done when the merchandise arrived at the Chinese port, last October, but several days later.

In a statement, Senasa, the Argentine government food safety body, said that this “is the first time that a case of this type has been registered with an Argentine product since the beginning of the pandemic.” It added that the meat was in perfect condition and met all sanitary standards.

On Friday, the GACC suspended imports from Argentine beef producer Frigorifico Gorina S.A.I.C. for four weeks.

This is not yet a major issue, but it has raised the tension level in Argentina’s meat industry whose main buyer is China.

Argentina has 90 meat producers authorised to export to China. In the first nine months of this year, Argentina exported 320,892 tonnes of beef to China, almost 15% more than in the same period in 2019. This represents 73% of total sales of Argentine beef.

For Senasa, it is hard to identify the origin of the virus on the outside packaging of the shipment since after entering the port of Shanghai it was handled and transferred to a cold storage facility inland.

Some interpret this measure as China putting pressure on world meat prices. At present, a tonne of beef costs US$ 4,500.

The finding was in fact reported whilst the China International Import Expo got underway in Shanghai in which deals to sell Argentine beef to China were set to be brokered.

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