China wants a third party to verify beginning March 1 that U.S. pork shipped to the country is free of ractopamine, a feed additive that promotes lean muscle growth, a spokesman for the U.S. Meat Export Federation told Reuters.
"There has been communication from the China regulatory agency with U.S. officials that suggests this will be a March 1 requirement," said Joe Schuele, communications director of USMEF, a trade association for U.S. meat producers.
U.S. pork exports to China, including Hong Kong, were valued at US$886 million last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Chinese action follows a Russian ban on U.S. beef, pork and turkey imports on Feb 11 due to ractopamine.
"China has a zero-tolerance (ractopamine) requirement for pork. The issue is, how do you satisfy the third-party verification requirement when U.S. pork is already ractopamine free?" said Schuele.
China already bans pork containing ractopamine, and in the past has barred imports from some U.S. companies that shipped meat with trace amounts of the feed additive. Beijing maintains that there are serious concerns about the safety of ractopamine.
"We are still seeking specifics in terms of what China will accept in order to satisfy the third-party verification requirement. Those are key details for pork exporters who want to keep U.S. product moving into this market," he said.
The U.S., Canada and several other countries have approved the use of the additive, which is sold for hog farm use under the name Paylean.
The United Nations' Codex Alimentarius Commission last year established global food safety standards on acceptable daily intake and maximum residue levels for the additive in livestock production.
Lean hog futures at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange fell sharply on rumours of the Chinese action, and extended losses in after-hours trading following the statement by the USMEF official to Reuters.
"There is a lot of product in route to China anytime because it's a large-volume market. It's going to be a high priority, that's for sure," Schuele said.
Russia's ban earlier this month shut off the flow of more than US$500 million a year of beef and pork to that country.
Canada has been allowed to continue exporting meat to Russia from eligible plants after Russian officials reported receiving assurances from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
-- Theopolis Waters writes for Reuters from Chicago. Additional reporting for Reuters by K.T. Arasu. Includes files from AGCanada.com staff.
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