UPDATE 1-China restricts imports of Australian chilled beef

Thu Sep 26, 2013 11:12pm EDT

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SYDNEY, Sept 27 (Reuters) - China has restricted imports of chilled beef from Australia, the world's third-largest beef exporter, after ruling that exporters must receive approval, Australia said on Friday.

Australian beef exports to China are forecast to be worth about A$600 million ($562 million) in the 2013/14 season. Industry sources said chilled beef accounts for around 10 percent of sales.

"China has recently advised that export establishments must be approved for specific products, including chilled meat," a spokeswoman at Australia's department of agriculture said.

The government was working with China and the meat industry to resolve the issue as quickly as possible, she said.

Chinese officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Beef exports to China have soared in recent months as Australia has enjoyed favourable access compared to other major beef exporters.

China has restricted imports of beef from the United States and Brazil over fears about mad cow disease, a brain-wasting condition formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

Australia is forecast to ship 130,000 tonnes of beef to China during the 2013/14 marketing year, becoming Australia's fourth-largest customer. ($1 = 1.0685 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Ed Davies)