Multiple unconfirmed reports in Australian media have claimed the units involved in the ban include two factories run by the country’s biggest meat processor JBS. Other companies reportedly hit are Kilcoy Pastoral, Australian Country Choice, the Northern Rivers Co-operative at Casino, and Thomas Food. However, the identity of the companies involved has not been confirmed by the Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC).
Australia became aware of the ban this week and government officials have been locked in discussions with Chinese counterparts to swiftly restore access to a market that imported 160,000 tonnes of Australian red meat last year.
Australian broadcaster ABC reported today (27 July) that a “breakthrough” had been made in negotiations, but AMIC CEO Patrick Hutchinson dismissed this.
“This story is misinformation, or perhaps misinterpretation,” Hutchinson told this site.
“Basically there is a negotiation process going on between our two governments – our Department of Agriculture is looking at the regulatory process and then our Department of Trade is doing the diplomatic process. One helps the other. However, it should be noted that it [ABC] is probably being a little too excitable; there’s still bit to go in terms of the provision of information.
“Both governments need to be looking at this and coming to a conclusion as soon as practical for the companies in Australia that supply product, and obviously those people in China that are receiving and consuming the product.”
'Terrific' government talks
Hutchinson would not speculate on when he expected the temporary ban would be lifted.
While Hutchinson was cautious on progress, Australia’s Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Steven Ciobo said there had been “constructive discussions” with Chinese counterparts on lifting the ban.
China has agreed to accept beef that had been dispatched by Australia prior to 24 July, according to Ciobo, who called the outcome “terrific”.
China’s import inspection agency, the General Administration for the Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), suspended red meat imports from six meatpackers. All meat with a departure date of 24 July or later is still subject to a ban.
The meat companies had exports of fresh and frozen beef and lamb suspended due to “a small number of labelling and trade description” issues, according to AMIC.
Australia feared the ban could have a serious impact on meat trade to China, as the companies hit with the ban were responsible for a significant proportion of the country’s red meat trade with China.