September 19, 2019 / 3:57 AM / a month ago

China green lights eight Argentine meat plants for beef exports

BEIJING/BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - China’s customs office said on Thursday it had granted export licenses to some Argentine meat-processing plants, as the Asian country looks to plug a supply gap after an African swine fever outbreak decimated China’s pig herds.

The customs office said in an email to Reuters it has made checks on meat exporters in the South American country recommended by the Argentinian government lately, but did not specify which companies were approved.

China, the world’s top pork producer, has seen its hog herd shrink by a third since the incurable disease arrived in the country more than a year ago. That has led to a spike in beef imports from markets like Argentina and Brazil.

Beijing approved seven Argentina poultry plants for exports to the world’s top meat market last week, according to the Embassy of Argentina in Beijing.

Argentina’s Agriculture Minister Luis Miguel Etchevehere said in a post on Twitter on Thursday that eight new local meat plants for beef had been approved for export to China.

“This comes on top of seven poultry meat plants approved last week. This impacts the entire chain!! More work in the slaughterhouses, in the fields, and more added value in the places where we produce!” he wrote.

The eight plants include those owned by Frigorífico HV, Amancay SAICAFI, Frigorífico General Pico, Runfo, Frimsa, Frigorífico Visom, La Anónima, and Azul Natural Beef, the Argentine President’s office said in a statement.

“We are working so that very soon a bigger number of meat plants can be added,” the statement said, citing Etchevehere.

Reuters reported this week that Beijing has recently inspected Argentine local meat plants and cattle ranchers in Argentina were looking to get more local meat-packing plants approved by Beijing.

China has also granted export licenses to 25 Brazil meatpacking plants.

China’s pig herd fell by 38.7% in August versus a year ago, while its sow herd declined by 37.4% from last year, according to data published by China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs last week.

Rabobank, which late last year estimated China’s pig herd at 360 million animals, said in April that up to 200 million pigs could be culled or would die due to the disease, while pork output could fall by 30%.

Reporting by Hallie Gu and Dominique Patton in Beijing and Maximilian Heath in Buenos Aires; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Lisa Shumaker

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