US farm produce exporters eager to demonstrate high safety standards

Source:Global Times Published: 2020/6/29 16:02:00

American farm exporters want to show standards

Workers check bottles of soybean oil made from imported US soybeans at a production plant in Qufu, East China's Shandong Province. Photo: VCG

US farm produce shippers are eager to demonstrate the high health and safety standards applied to their cargo headed for China amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a US agricultural trade association said on Monday, hoping for the recognition of US-certified exports by Chinese customs. 

"We continuously work to protect all consumers, in the US, China, and all other nations, from COVID-19 and other dangers," Peter Friedmann, executive director of the Agriculture Transportation Coalition (AgTC) which represents US exporters of food, farm and fiber products, told the Global Times in an emailed response. 

The AgTC and its members understand and support the need for Chinese authorities to protect Chinese consumers from COVID-19 and any other danger, Friedmann said.

The US Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) mandates compliance with high health and safety requirements as a condition to granting export APHIS Certifications. US farm produce exports must also meet United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) standards mentioned on the China Customs form. They must also meet China's own food safety laws, regulations and standards, he revealed. 

"It would be most helpful if China customs issued a statement recognizing that imports with the USDA APHIS Certificate meet the standards required by China customs."

As part of broad-based efforts to contain the virus amid mounting fears of a second wave, Chinese customs has in particular toughened controls on meat imports from COVID-19 hotspots. 

The General Administration of Customs (GAC) earlier in June suspended pork imports from COVID-19-hit German meatpacker Toennies. The GAC also suspended imports from Tyson Foods, one of the top meat producers in the US, due to cluster infections earlier in the month.

The AgTC has provided its members, including agriculture exporters, freight forwarders and truckers, with three sample statements to choose from, if they wish, to accompany their shipments to China. These statements are intended to assure their customers in China and Chinese customs that their cargo complies with the highest US and international standards for health and safety, according to the trade association.

"We believe these provide China customs the assurance it is seeking to protect China's consumers of US agriculture products," Friedmann reckoned. 

Responding to concerns about whether some US food and agriculture shippers have forgone China trade due to a failure to provide official declarations, he said, "We have no evidence of this, yet."

Official declarations recently requested by Chinese customs to guarantee food export shipments to China are not contaminated by the virus are bringing some exporters to forgo trade with China, Reuters said in a report on Friday.

Coronavirus-free guarantees could put an added burden on exporters and that's not something exclusively demanded by Chinese authorities, Gao Lingyun, an expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times.

Such guarantees are intended to diffuse worries prevalently among farm produce importers, Gao said, stressing that "we are glad to see commitment statements from overseas industry groups" that attest to coronavirus-free shipments to China.

Newspaper headline: American farm exporters want to show standards


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