China suspends another meat plant

China suspends another meat plant

Beef
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Chinese state media suggests Australian steaks may have brought coronavirus to Wuhan

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CHINA has suspended yet another red meat processor from supplying its market in the same week its state-owned media published suggestions coronavirus may have reached its shores via frozen food imports such as Australian beef.

Queensland's Meramist abattoir is now the eighth plant to be locked out of the market.

Four plants were suspended in May over labelling issues, one in August over residue detection and then two Victorian lamb plants where COVID-19 infections had occurred were blacklisted.

All have provided documented evidence to Chinese officials of measures taken to overcome concerns and are awaiting a response.

Chinese officials have not yet provided a reason for the latest suspension but Australia's peak processing body the Australian Meat Industry Council is already on the job getting the process underway of working towards a solution.

Chief executive officer Patrick Hutchinson said AMIC was in meetings with the Queensland plant and the Australian Government to determine both the cause of the suspension and how to move forward.

Meramist has not yet responded to media inquiries.

Mr Hutchinson said all the suspensions were run-of-the-mill occurrences in global beef and sheepmeat trading but what was different was the time taking for the process to be worked through.

That, potentially, was something that could be laid at the feet of deteriorating geopolitical relations between China and Australia, he agreed.

"We work year-round with government regulators all over the world on issues like this where there are suspensions, slow downs or questions asked," Mr Hutchinson said.

"Systems are checked and questioned all the time and there is a process of working through issues.

"China has done the same as any other country we export to around the world, and any customer we work with for that matter.

"We should be very clear that if China wanted to send a message, it wouldn't be just taking out one small plant.

"What is perhaps different now is that we are in a situation where it is taking longer than normal to receive a response from China after all the documentation has been provided, which is keeping Australian exporters out of the market for longer than would otherwise be expected.

"There is almost a cease and desist in communication now."

The news on the latest suspension filtered through on the back of global backlash over an article in the Chinese media outlet the Global Times suggesting coronavirus may have arrived in Wuhan via imported frozen food.

Australian steak was one of the foods the Global Times listed.

The article, published at the weekend, argued Western countries had unfairly accused Wuhan of being where coronavirus began in an attempt to 'shift the narrative' from their own shortcomings.

Australian cattle industry leaders said they would not be giving what amounts to 'fake news' air play by responding, however they did point to World Health Organisation advice that the virus could not be transmitted via frozen food.

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