Seven major beef producing and exporting countries have expressed deep concern at the imposition of border testing for COVID-19 that is not based on international Codex standards.
The member countries represented on the International Beef Alliance held their annual conference this year on Monday and Tuesday, via webinar. Comprising the cattle producer organisations from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Paraguay and the United States, the IBA members account for 47 percent of global beef production and 66pc of exports.
In a clear reference to recent actions in China, which two months ago launched widespread testing of chilled and frozen meat products at port for COVID contamination, the IBA said while it understood the pressure that governments around the world faced to keep citizens safe from COVID, its membership called for the use of “risk-based measures grounded in sound science and aligned to international standards.”
“The year 2020 has been a difficult one for cattle producers with the COVID pandemic disrupting beef production, processing and trade throughout the world,” the organisation said.
“While the cattle and beef sectors in some IBA countries have been severely affected, we have adapted our risk management procedures and continue to produce safe, healthy and nutritious beef products.”
“COVID highlighted the importance of international food trade in achieving food security and economic prosperity. The past six months have proven that we are a critical part of an interconnected global food supply chain, and beef cattle producers remain staunchly committed to improving the wellbeing of people, our animals, and the environment,” the IBA said.
“The contribution of IBA members to global food security could not be understated. We reiterate the importance of free and open markets that allow consumers to access supplies of safe, nutritious and sufficient food. Trade distortions such as export restrictions, import tariffs, tariff-rate quotas and non-tariff barriers impede this matching of demand with supply.”
“As a result of COVID, we have seen measures put in place that restricts both exports and imports, making it more difficult for consumers to access food. We support the removal of these trade barriers as soon as possible,” it said.
The IBA also welcomed changes made by many countries to improve food trade and food security by lowering or removing trade barriers; adopting electronic certification in place of paper documentation; maintaining supply chains and enhancing the facilitation of food trade at the border, and providing greater transparency in measures affecting agricultural production and trade.
“It is imperative that we work together to ensure consumers have continued access to high quality, safe products, and we accordingly urge all countries to work to reduce and remove all barriers to food trade, enhance the transparency and functioning of food supply chains, and ensure that all countries adopt measures that are based on internationally recognized scientific standards,” it said.
The OIE continues to advise that chilled or frozen food products are not a risk source for COVID infection.