(Adds Chinese authorities didn’t respond to comment request, background on Chinese imports and anti-virus measures)
SAO PAULO/BEIJING, Jan 4 (Reuters) - China has suspended imports from a Brazilian pork plant operated by privately owned Aurora Alimentos over coronavirus concerns, according to a statement from a meat trade group on Monday.
The Brazilian agriculture ministry confirmed that on Dec. 28 Chinese customs authorities enacted an import ban affecting Aurora’s plant, according to a separate statement sent to Reuters.
The agriculture ministry said China “requested information about COVID-19 cases at the plant,” without elaborating.
The Brazilian Animal Protein Association (ABPA) said it is supporting Aurora Alimentos and supplying Brazil’s agriculture ministry with information that Chinese authorities may need to reverse the ban.
“This is an isolated event in the past,” ABPA said. “All information and demonstrations of Aurora’s good practices have been shared in detail with Chinese authorities,” ABPA said, adding that the company enforces strict COVID-19 protocols.
China’s General Administration of Customs did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment.
China has increased pork imports while working to restore hog herds decimated by African swine fever. Imports reached 3.95 million tonnes over January-November 2020, up 115% from the same period a year earlier.
Still, the COVID-19 pandemic has impeded import efforts. The country has had to intensify shipment checks and ban produce from some factories in various countries after discovering the novel coronavirus on imported cold-chain products and packaging.
Importers and traders have also called for factories to disinfect cargo before shipping.
The Aurora plant affected by the latest suspension is in the town of Chapecó, Santa Catarina state, ABPA said. China has also issued similar suspensions against other Brazil-based meatpackers including JBS SA and BRF SA, although some of the bans have been already lifted.
ABPA reiterated that there is no scientific evidence of the risk of contamination by the novel coronavirus through food consumption.
Reporting by Ana Mano in Sao Paulo and Hallie Gu in Beijing; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Christopher Cushing
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