RED meat processors and trade personnel are perplexed about the reasons behind a surprise Chinese regulatory decision overnight to suspend six Australian export beef plants from supplying the Chinese market.
The plants involved include JBS Australia’s Beef City and Primo facilities in Queensland and NSW respectively; Kilcoy Pastoral Co in Queensland; Northern Cooperative Meat Co at Casino NSW; Australian Country Choice in Brisbane; and Thomas Foods International’s Murray Bridge, SA plant.
JBS would not confirm the suspensions of its two plants when contacted by Beef Central this morning. The Australian Meat Industry Council would not provide a comment.
A phone hook-up involving government trade personnel and industry early this afternoon will attempt to shed more light on the reasons behind the suspensions, and the best process to restore trade as soon as possible.
Limited information at this point suggests the reasons for the suspensions are not related to residues, contaminants or HGP issues, but are all labelling-related, and involve only a handful of cartons each. Some of the issues are apparently almost a year old. One example was kidney fat labelled as rendered fat, another three cartons of Wagyu fat carrying a label identifying it as something else.
There was talk this afternoon of at least one of the plants included on the list adjusting its kill rosters as a result of the suspension.
Such minor labelling mistakes would seem unlikely to warrant plant suspensions, but the China export beef market continues to behave unpredictably, at best.
Australia exported 97,000 tonnes of chilled and frozen beef to China during the fiscal year ended June 30, down from 128,000t a year earlier, due mostly to competitive pressure from Brazilian exports and lower production volume in Australia.
More details as they come to hand.