(KMAland) -- The recent expansion of COVID-related measures in China has slowed product movement.

Despite guidance from international health organizations stating that imported food shipments are an unlikely source of COVID-19 transmission, the Chinese government implemented sample testing procedures last summer at ports of entry.

Joel Haggard is US Meat Export Federation’s senior vice president for the Asia Pacific. He says China more recently has not only expanded COVID testing to include all imported meat and seafood shipments but also added disinfection and tracing requirements for these products. 

“Since the summer following outbreaks at wholesale food markets, China has been swab-testing imported meat and poultry – especially its packaging – for COVID,” Haggard said. “At first, the testing was only conducted at ports during the product clearance process and on a sampled basis. But now, China has implemented new rules mandating that all imported meat and poultry be tested again at inland cold stores and distribution centers before moving onto end users like supermarkets and restaurants.”

Haggard says these new requirements have, to some degree, slowed movement of imported pork and beef products into China’s commercial channels. News coverage of positive tests has also caused some consumer pushback on imported meat products.

“The effects have really been more pronounced over the last few weeks,” Haggard said. “There have been some slowdowns in product clearance at ports as product looks to find approved warehouses where it can be disinfected. There has been a slowdown in the movement of products as wholesalers need to get their COVID test and disinfection certificates.”

“We are hearing of some consumer pushback on imported meat and poultry,” he continued. “These developments are coming at an inopportune time as this really is the peak meat purchasing and consumption season leading up to the February 12th Lunar New Year.”

Haggard added he expects these obstacles to have less impact moving forward as China’s vaccination programs help curb new COVID outbreaks.

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