THREE Australian export beef and sheep meat plants that were suspended from supply to China three years ago over COVID concerns have had their license access restored.
The three facilities – JBS Brooklyn, VIC (Est. No 688, beef and lamb); Teys Naracoorte SA (Est. no 423, frozen beef) and Minerva’s Australian Lamb Co Colac VIC (Est. No 282, lamb) can now service the Chinese market as per their earlier licenses.
All three were suspended after self-reporting over infection among staff during the depths of the COVID period in 2020, after China had earlier raised concerns over perceived virus infection risk from imported frozen foods.
The lifting of the suspension does not involve the six Australian meat plants suspended by China earlier, during a period of elevated political tension between the two countries, over a variety of documentation, regulatory or questionable residue detection issues.
That list includes JBS Dinmore QLD, JBS Beef City QLD, Kilcoy Global Foods QLD, Australian Country Choice QLD, Northern Cooperative Meat Co NSW, John Dee QLD. Two other smaller export plants that were suspended earlier are no longer pursuing restored China access.
The Australian Meat Industry Council issued a statement this morning welcoming China’s reinstatement of export approvals for the three export meat processors.
“AMIC has been advocating for this breakthrough with government as well as our industry partners in China for a long time,” the organisation said.
“We are glad to see movement and action on some of the outstanding issues that will allow the affected plants to re-enter the market,” AMIC chief executive officer Patrick Hutchinson said.
“AMIC hopes this move represents the first step in addressing a number of remaining access issues for Australian meat processors, as a number of other meat plants remain suspended despite significant corrective actions and steps taken to assure compliance with Chinese requirements,” he said.
“This first step shows confidence in Australia’s system, and a recognition that we have provided all the information required for China to lift these temporary suspensions.”
Mr Hutchinson said the restoration of market access afforded those companies the opportunity to sell each individual part of the carcase to the best possible market.
“In an industry of tight margins, optimum value needs to be extracted across every single part of the carcase, and access to China helps deliver that,” he said.
“We will continue to advocate strongly for all remaining suspended plants to also regain access to China as a matter of priority. We hope this represents a re-stablisation of the trade in meat to China which will also allow for a process and pathway for new access to the market.”
A number of other Australian export meat processors have been seeking access to the China market for a number of years, without success.
“We hope that this development paves the way for them to soon be able to supply Chinese consumers with Australia’s top quality, safe meat and meat products,” Mr Hutchinson said.
Part of Minerva Foods Australia, the Australian Lamb Co facility near Colac is one of the nation’s largest producers and distributors of lamb product.
Minerva Foods Australia chief executive Iain Mars, acknowledged the outcome from the General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China.
Mr Mars said the Colac processing establishment would immediately resume production and trade activity for this important market of its quality lamb, mutton, and offal product.
“Our company has a strong history of goodwill and sound trade relations with the people of China,” he said. “This outcome we believe reflects that strength of ongoing partnership and purpose.”
Mr Mars said the company appreciated the guidance by the Australian Government and including its agriculture and trade officials, alongside industry representatives from the Australian Meat Industry Council, Meat & Livestock Australia and farming bodies.
Australian Lamb Co’s major processing facility in Colac continues to employ a workforce of more than 850 personnel to supply both domestic and international markets.
Teys Australia’s contacts in China had earlier told the company that access restoration was ‘on the cards’ for the three plants suspended in 2020 over COVID concerns.
Teys chief executive Brad Teys said regaining access came as a great result for the company’s Naracoorte processing business.
“We thank agriculture minister Murray Watt and the federal government for their efforts in restoring market access,” he said.
“The return of China as a customer for frozen beef from Naracoorte gives greater flexibility and options, in the international market.”
“It gives some sense of optimism that Australia’s remaining suspended plants may follow. It’s heading in the right direction,” he said.