AUSTRALIA’S beef processing sector has acknowledged it is “on notice to the fact” that utmost diligence must be applied in every quality assurance measure and requirement on imported product.
In the wake of the lifting of a three-month suspension on beef exports to China, both processors and producers are counting the enormous costs to Australia’s beef industry and emphasising the vigilance required, at every step of the supply chain, to ensure protocols are met in every instance.
The Federal Government’s announcement this morning that six Australian meat processors can now resume exporting their beef to China has been welcomed with open arms.
The ban remains in place for one NSW plant, which came under the suspension later, while the resolution is worked through but that is not expected to be a lengthy process.
Both processor and producer peak group leaders said a resolution within three months was considered very good and was testament to the strong trade relationship between the two countries.
The facilities involved account for around 30 per cent of Australia’s beef exports to China.
Processor body the Australian Meat Industry Council said the industry “respected immensely the security process around food labelling that China applies.”
Chief executive officer Patrick Hutchinson said: “What occurred here was China saying these issues are very important to them and making the decision to suspend the ability for product from those plants to be cleared at import until those issues were fixed.
“For the most part, they had already been fixed and it was just a matter of demonstrating that.”
He denied claims that numerous warnings from China were issued before the bans were implemented.
He also reiterated the issues involved labelling only.
“Any manufacturer can have issues of a technical nature, at times labelling can be an issue,” he said.
“What happened here was China questioned the system.
“And this industry has now put together the necessary protocols to ensure everything is managed to China’s satisfaction.”
Cattle Council of Australia president Howard Smith said where there had been breaches, more vigilance was needed.
“I know sometimes things happen beyond people’s control but what this has shown is the need for absolute vigilance,” he said.
“All the supply chain needs to be responsible about meeting protocols.
“If there are incidents in the processing sector it affects everyone.”
It was difficult to put an exact figure on what the suspensions might have cost the cattle production sector but it was fair to describe it as significant, he said.
The main point was when Australia was out of a market, our competitors were given an opportunity and the effects of that could be difficult to reverse, Mr Smith said.
Australia’s beef exports to China were worth $670 million in 2016.
A statement from Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Steven Ciobo said the positive outcome reflects the high level of cooperation between Australian and Chinese authorities and our red meat industry.
Meanwhile, negotiations with Malaysia are continuing after the suspension in September of three Australian red meat plants from sending product there.