China ramps up checks for U.S. pork imports
The stepped-up checks have even hit China’s WH Group, the world’s largest pork company and owner of Smithfield Foods in the U.S., and come amid increasing scrutiny of other U.S. farm goods, including fruit and logs. Ports are opening and inspecting every cargo that arrives, said Luis Chein, a director at WH Group, China’s top importer of U.S. pork. That compares with inspections carried out only “randomly” in the past, he told Reuters, significantly lengthening the time product stays at the port.
China’s General Administration of Customs, which oversees food imports, did not respond to a fax seeking comment. Increased checks on U.S. products are “not terribly surprising,” said Even Rogers Pay, an agriculture analyst at China Policy, a Beijing-based consultancy. “In a situation where trade tensions are high, China will enforce every possible regulation on its books. It makes strategic sense to do so at this point,” she said.
Late on Monday, China’s customs agency announced it was stepping up quarantine checks on apples and logs from the United States after detecting pests in imports of the products at Chinese ports. U.S. pork is now sitting at Chinese ports for up to two weeks, instead of a few days, industry sources told Reuters.
Most of the imported pork is frozen and not at risk of perishing. But the move comes on top of the additional 25% duties Beijing slapped on American pork and a slew of other goods last month, in retaliation for U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminium imports. The United States is one of China’s top overseas pork suppliers, shipping 489 million USD worth of the meat last year.
In addition, China’s domestic hog prices have plunged in the first quarter, and are still hovering around eight-year lows of about 10 yuan (1.57 USD) per kg. That has led WH Group to sharply reduce its imports anyway this year, added Chein. China’s total pork imports declined 10% to 595,611 tons in the first three months of the year, according to Chinese customs.