Brazil beef exporter, British pork plant halt China shipments over virus

(Reuters) - China, the world’s top meat importer, said on Tuesday a Brazilian beef exporter and a pork plant in Britain had voluntarily suspended exports because of coronavirus infections.

Many meat exporting nations, such as Brazil and the United States, have seen thousands of cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, among workers in meat plants.

Brazil’s Agra Agroindustrial De Alimentos S.A. had voluntarily halted beef exports to China after a virus infection among its workforce, China’s General Administration of Customs said on its website.

In a separate statement on its Weibo social media account, the department added that Britain’s Tulip had voluntarily suspended all pork exports from its Tipton plant in the West Midlands because of a virus outbreak.

A joint statement from Tulip and Public Health England confirmed there had been “some cases of COVID-19 in staff members” at the Tipton plant which continues to operate.

Tulip, a division of Pilgrim's Pride Corp PPC.O, is Britain's largest pork processor.

China has stepped up inspections of meat imports after a new cluster of virus infections in Beijing was linked to the capital’s huge Xinfadi wholesale food market.

Beijing has started testing meat, seafood and fresh produce, with some major Chinese ports opening all meat and seafood containers for virus tests.

Last week, Chinese customs asked food exporters for signed declarations that their produce was free of virus contamination.

On Sunday, China said it had suspended poultry imports from a U.S.-based meat plant of Tyson Inc TSN.N after earlier halting pork products from German processor Toennies.

China’s meat imports in the first five months of 2020 soared 73.4% on the year to 3.85 million tonnes.

The world’s top pork consumer imported a monthly record volume of 400,000 tonnes in April as domestic output plunged after an outbreak of African swine fever hit its pig herd in late 2018.

Reporting by Shivani Singh, Colin Qian, Lusha Zhang and Nigel Hunt; Editing by Tom Hogue/Clarence Fernandez/Jane Merriman