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China to suspend pork imports from Quebec processor

Export suspension marks third for a Canadian packer in current trade dispute

Beijing | Reuters — China will block pork imports from a third Canadian firm after a shipment was found to contain the banned feed additive ractopamine, the customs agency said on Tuesday, deepening a trade and diplomatic dispute with Canada.

The firm in question is Frigo Royal, the agency said on its Wechat account. Ractopamine is used in some countries to make leaner pigs but China does not allow its use or tolerate residues in imported meat.

China will also strengthen inspections for the residue in all pork imports from Canada, the notice from the General Administration of Customs said. Frigo Royal did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Frigo Royal, based at St-Hyacinthe, Que., bills itself as a co-packing, cold storage and export operation for other food firms. Apart from China, it’s also licensed to export meat products to the U.S., Russia, the European Union and Mexico among others.

The company’s federal meat establishment license covers it for “other” processing of red meats and poultry — as opposed to slaughter, cutting or boning. It’s also authorized for inspection of meat products (other than beef) imported from South America.

China halted pork imports from two other Canadian producers, Olymel and Drummond Export, in April because of labelling problems. It has also blocked imports of canola.

“It’s definitely not good news,” Canadian Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau told reporters, saying food inspectors were probing the case.

“My message to the exporters and the industry is to be very vigilant to make sure they respect all the rules of our export agreement with China,” she added.

Relations between China and Canada nosedived last December after Vancouver police detained Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, on a U.S. arrest warrant. Beijing is demanding her return.

Canadian officials said this month they had been warned by China that it would step up inspections of meat imports after “recent cases of non-compliance” in pork shipments.

The Chinese customs notice said authorities in the port of Nanjing had detected ractopamine residue in a batch of Frigo Royal pork on June 3.

China had previously warned Canada that it would open all containers of Canadian meat and, in some cases, inspect 100 per cent of the contents.

Many Canadian farmers started raising pigs without ractopamine in 2013 to boost exports to China. Pork exporters, feed manufacturers and hog farms enrol in a government program that certifies pork was produced without ractopamine, said Gary Stordy of the Canadian Pork Council.

Elanco Animal Health, the manufacturer of Paylean, the commercial name for a ractopamine feed ingredient, does not sell the product in Canada, although there are other ractopamine manufacturers, spokeswoman Keri McGrath said.

In the first four months of 2019, China was Canada’s third-biggest pork export market, taking in $310 million of pork, according to Statistics Canada.

Reporting for Reuters by Hallie Gu and Dominique Patton; additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Rod Nickel in Winnipeg. Includes files from Glacier FarmMedia Network staff.

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