China blocks Canadian pork firms

Reuters, WINNIPEG, Manitoba and OTTAWA, Canada

Fri, May 03, 2019 - Page 10

Canadian Minister of Agriculture Marie-Claude Bibeau on Wednesday said that officials have told her Beijing has suspended the export permits of two Canadian pork exporters, marking the latest irritant in a widening diplomatic dispute.

Bibeau said in an interview that she has not yet received an official notice from China of the permit suspensions, and would not identify the companies involved.

Both pork producers are based in Quebec Province, she added.

“We have to look into this,” she said by telephone from Ottawa. “It might be only administrative. We might be able to deal with the situation easily. I can’t speculate on why the permits have been suspended.”

Canada-China ties turned icy in December last year, when Vancouver police arrested Huawei Technologies Co Ltd (華為) chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou (孟晚舟) on a US warrant.

Since then, China has arrested two Canadians and halted canola imports from two Canadian companies.

Bibeau said that she did not know when the pork permit suspensions took effect.

Last week, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said that some Canadian pork shipments to China had been delayed, because exporters used outdated forms that certify the cargoes meet Chinese requirements.

The permit suspensions are also due to paperwork problems, although not the same issue as before, Canadian Pork Council spokesman Gary Stordy said.

The suspensions applied to two processing plants in Quebec, Stordy said.

The largest pork exporter in Quebec, Olymel LP, did not respond to requests for comment.

Canada, the world’s third-largest pork exporter, has shipped more pork this year to China, where the domestic pig herd has been ravaged by African swine fever.

China bought C$514 million (US$382.5 million at the current exchange rate) of Canadian pork last year.

“With African swine fever and the fact [the Chinese] are very big consumers of pork, and here in Canada we are free from [African swine fever], it’s surprising that this is happening,” Bibeau said.

China is the largest global producer and consumer of pork.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Canadian government offered financial assistance to canola farmers who have been hit by a Chinese ban on imports and said that it was looking to diversify into other markets.